E-Malt.com News article: Canada: Farmers want control over CWB but opinions on malting barley trade are divided
Prairie farmers are strongly asserting their right to control the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, CWB's annual producer survey revealed on June 9.
Seventy-six percent of respondents said the federal government should not eliminate the CWB without farmer consent – a view shared by both supporters and opponents of the CWB single-desk model. In addition, 79 per cent said the ultimate decisions about the CWB must be made by farmers, not by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"The message from farmers is crystal clear: they want to be firmly in charge of their marketing organization and call the shots on its future," said CWB chair Allen Oberg, who farms near Forestburg, Alberta, southeast of Edmonton. "As CWB directors and their elected representatives, we also want assurances that farmers have real clout."
Oberg said a number of issues, including the court-backed federal "gag order" of the CWB, suggest the role of farmers is being eroded. Farmers appear to share this fear. The survey shows they are less likely than last year to view the CWB as farmer-controlled. Sixty per cent say they believe the federal government has more say than farmers over decisions at the CWB, compared to 49 per cent in 2009.
Support for the CWB remains high among western Canadian farmers, with 70 per cent saying they support the organization. This is statistically identical to last year's 71 per cent. Support is even higher (76 per cent) among those who conduct at least 25 per cent of their business through the CWB. "Farmers who are the most engaged and familiar with the CWB marketing model appear to value it the most," Oberg said.
On marketing structure, 69 per cent of those with an opinion supported retaining the single desk for wheat. For barley, opinions are more complex. Almost half (48 per cent) prefer the CWB model for barley over the open market. Oberg noted that 49 per cent of barley growers said they believe the CWB can get better prices than the open market, compared to only 29 per cent who believed an open market could achieve higher barley returns. "This suggests the barley debate is about something other than generating the best prices for malting barley," he said.
In addition, support for the "dual marketing" concept for barley has dropped significantly over the past five years, from a high of 54 per cent in 2005 to 39 per cent today.
The survey, which covered a wide range of topics, also showed farmers are pessimistic about the state of agriculture this year. More than half (53 per cent) believe agriculture is on the wrong track, compared to only 31 per cent last year. Top concerns were the low price of wheat, the high costs of inputs and the expense of grain transportation. Eighty-three per cent said their freight costs are unreasonable, with 92 per cent wanting the CWB to advocate strongly for a government review of railway costs for transporting grain. On the WTO negotiations, 55 per cent said they believe the deal would decrease their profits.
The survey was fielded in early spring among 900 producers in the three Prairie provinces. It is considered accurate within 3.24 per cent.
The Canadian Wheat Board was established by the Parliament of Canada in 1935 as a producer marketing system for wheat and barley. The CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world.
11 June, 2010