Calls to reinstate Wheat Board find little favour in the Peace Region

A movement in the Prairie provinces to reinstate the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is unlikely to gain much traction in the Peace Region, according to one local producer and the B.C. Grain Producers Association.

More than 50 farmers from the Swan River and Pelly areas of Manitoba and Saskatchewan unanimously passed a motion earlier this month calling for the reinstatement of the board, which was privatized in 2012.

The CWB was the sole marketing board for wheat and barley in Western Canada. The board was sold in 2015 to Global Grain Group (also known as G3), a joint venture of the Government of Saudi Arabia and Bunge, one of the world's largest private grain traders, for $250 million.

"The fact a farm meeting of this size could unanimously pass this resolution is a strong indication to Ottawa that farmers are now feeling the loss of the CWB in their pocketbooks," said Kyle Korneychuk, a spokesperson for the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.

The group said the loss of the CWB has resulted in clogged rail transport and lower-quality Canadian grain in the international market.

But in the B.C. Peace Region, some farmers like things the way they are.

Rick Kantz, president of the BC Grain Producers Association and Irmi Critcher of Critcher Farms Ltd. near Taylor, both feel the last two years without the board have been a net benefit for the region.

Kantz said the loss of the CWB may have an uneven impact.

"If you were used to the wheat board system where all (you) did was concentrate on production and didn't worry about marketing, it hurt those guys," he said.

For younger farms that grew more than just wheat and barley, which the CWB regulated, the transition was easier.

"The loss of the wheat board to those (farms) wasn't nearly as significant," Kantz said. "It probably was better."

Critcher said going back to the wheat board system would be "ludicrous."

"Reviving that again is just a futile exercise," she added. "I fail to see what the benefits would be."

 Critcher said it was unfair to blame the logjam in rail transport of grain suffered in past years on the loss of the wheat board.

"There were other factors in play which contributed to that impact, and the wheat board wouldn't have made any difference," she said, pointing to 30 to 40 per cent higher than normal yields, extreme winter conditions, and the (at the time) booming oil and gas industry which was also competing for rail cars.

 

You get out of it what you put into it

Critcher and Kantz said putting marketing back in the hands of the farmer can be beneficial.

"You can have a small farm and still do a lot of marketing and still get the best price," Critcher said. "(Now) we know very early in the game once we've harvested what we've got and we can actively go and seek markets. We don't have to sit on our grain."

Kantz said the wheat board allowed farmers to sell all their product at once, but they may not have always been getting the best deal.

"Now, we can pick and choose when to sell it," he said. "Maybe, if we think the market is going to go up, you can hold it. I think it's been a net benefit for our region for those that are doing their own
marketing."

But for those that aren't, Kantz says they might be feeling the impacts a bit more.

"You've got to be a bit more on the ball to know what the market conditions are," he said.

"Is there a drought somewhere? Is there a chance of the price going up? You've got to ask a lot more questions and be into the marketing yourself. If you're not doing that yourself, that would be where the biggest loss for some would be."

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