Should the Canadian Wheat Board's Future be Decided by Farmers?

October 27, 2011 :: Glen Tole
Moderated by Ed Bardock

Controlled by western Canadian farmers, the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of Canada's biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells grain to over 70 countries and returns all sales revenue, less marketing costs, to farmers. The CWB is single desk in its marketing structure and its whole premise is built upon the concept that farmers benefit from marketing their grain together, as one, big or small.

The Wheat Board belongs to farmers. They pay for its operations from the sale of grain and run it through elected representatives on the CWB board of directors. However, the federal Government has announced its intention to remove the CWB's single desk for wheat and barley as of August 1, 2012, with legislation to be introduced this fall. Minister Gerry Ritz have said that farmers will not be allowed a vote, despite the majority of farmers voting for maintaining CWB single desk marketing in a recent plebiscite.

The CWB is not a grain company; it has no grain-handling infrastructure and no capital base for borrowing money or financing its operations. It exists by virtue of legislation and the existence of Government financial guarantees. The speaker will argue that if the CWB were to function as a grain company in an open market, it would be at a disadvantage compared to established grain companies in carrying out its business.

Speaker: Stewart Wells

Stewart Wells was elected director for district 3 of the CWB last year. He was born and raised on a family farm near Swift Current, SK. where he and his partner Terry Toews co-own and operate the third generation farm, with the majority of acres seeded to organic red spring wheat, winter wheat, peas and lentils. He earned a Degree in Agricultural Engineering from University of Saskatchewan and later served as a farmer-delegate to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

Stewart was elected to the board of the National Farmers Union for 12 years, including eight years served as President. He has also been an advisor to the board of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute and has sat on numerous provincial and national committees related to marketing, trade and safety nets.

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