November 23, 2011
Did you eat any bread today? Maybe a sandwich at lunch? How about a beer after work? If so, you can thank the Canadian Wheat Board.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) launched a new publication highlighting the importance of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) to Canadian farmers and to the entire country.
Mowed Down: Dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, Who will really reap the rewards outlines the many collective benefits Canadians receive through the CWB, from helping family farmers make a decent living to a reduced environmental footprint to food safety.
Mowed Down provides a history of the CWB and clearly shows how it has stood up for working farmers against big grain operators for decades. The CWB acts as a bargaining unit, representing 75,000 Western wheat and barley growers. It negotiates on their behalf the best price for their product as well as favourable storage and transportation rates to hold and deliver it. Neither a government agency, nor a crown corporation, the CWB is fully funded by farmers. The profit that it makes each year from grain sales is returned to farmers.
The CWB is a collective enterprise, and operates by what is called a "single desk" system: Western-grown wheat, durum and barley must be legally sold through the Board. The CWB doesn't set grain prices; prices are determined by supply and demand in world markets. But the sheer volume of grain that it handles through the single desk systems gives it the clout to negotiate a high selling price on behalf of its members.
Farmers are not the only ones who benefit from the good work of the CWB. A 2005 PricewaterhouseCoopers study outlined considerable economic spin-off effects, including 14,000 non-farm jobs. The Board has also played an important role in protecting consumers from the health risks of genetically modified wheat.
The Harper government has been determined to abolish the CWB for years. As early as 2006, the first Conservative private member's bill was introduced to undermine the single desk system. The bill was defeated but many more attacks on the Board followed until this fall, with a new majority government, legislation was introduced to abolish the single desk.
The only winners if the CWB is dismantled are the big, multi-national grain companies taking over the industry. Transportation costs would sky rocket. Profits would be kept by companies and local farmers would be forced to compete against each other for lower and lower prices.
The National Union is supporting the CWB in its fight to defeat this legislation and save the single desk system. There are many ways you can help:
- Download Mowed Down for further information on the CWB and Harper's agenda;
- Go to the National Farmers Union and the Canadian Wheat Board to sign letters opposing the shutdown;
- Send a letter to the Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and your own Member of Parliament; and
- Send a public letter to your local newspaper or call talk radio shows to spread the word about how damaging this legislation is to farmers and Canadians as a whole.