Ottawa hopes to end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly (sic) on western barley sales by Aug. 1, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl said Wednesday after farmers voted 48.4 per cent in favour of the plan...Now, it's clear enough that no single option enjoyed majority support - which along with the ridiculous process makes the vote an entirely unsound basis for major policy changes. But it's also clear that any plan which results in the Wheat Board playing no role in marketing barley is entirely different from what was implied by the second option.
More than 29,000 western farmers mailed in ballots in the non-binding plebiscite, Mr. Strahl said, with 37.8 per cent voting to keep the CWB's monopoly on barley sales to maltsters and export markets, while 13.8 per cent voted to remove the agency from barley sales altogether.
After all, take a look at the actual second option:
I would like the option to market my barley to the Canadian Wheat Board or any other domestic or foreign buyer.And the formal explanation offered for that option is even more clear in emphasizing that it was supposed to include a continued Wheat Board presence in marketing barley(emphasis added):
A vote for choice is not a vote against the CWB. It is a vote that acknowledges there is more than one way to successfully market barley and that no single way works best for everyone all the time. No two farmers are exactly alike and neither are their business requirements or marketing strategies. Choice will allow individual farmers to match their own personal skill-sets, strengths and tolerance for risk with the marketing system that they see working best for them.As a quick aside, let's take a moment to point out the title of the "independent specialist" who wrote that assessment:
Rolf Penner is a Manitoba farmer and the Agricultural Policy Research Fellow for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy(.)Something sounds mighty familiar here.
Getting back to the plebiscite, here are the words of the Wheat Board itself:
The board's directors have said that without a monopoly, the wheat board will have to get out of the barley market, because it won't be able to compete without government funding for access to ports and grain elevators.In sum, without Strahl moving to provide the needed resources to enable the Wheat Board to compete, the second option could never have been said to exist. Which means that in planning simply to remove the Wheat Board's single-desk status without providing any of the needed support, Strahl is in fact delivering something entirely different than what was promised under the second option.
It should be emphasized again that ultimately no conclusions at all should have been drawn from a process as flawed as this one. But despite the Cons' multiple attempts to stack the process, the end result nonetheless reflects a 6-to-1 preference for an effective Wheat Board presence in barley marketing, as opposed to having the CWB out of the picture. Which means that there will likely be even more unhappy producers - and yet another strong piece of evidence as to the fundamental dishonesty of the Cons government - if Strahl indeed takes action which he knows will leave the Wheat Board on the sidelines.
Update: For anybody wanting a refresher on just how ridiculous the process leading up to the vote was, go read.