CWB issues challenge farmer relationships

Everything is so big! The roads, the fields, the sky; even the fridge! I drive up to an intersection and the other side of the highway is so far away, I can hardly find it. The fields seem to go on forever, meeting the sky that does go on forever. And the fridge…no wonder things go bad at the back. Once you put them back there, you’ll never find them again.
I’d just finally got used to the narrow roads in Switzerland, the tiny fields that a Canadian rig could hardly turn around in, and the fridge that by default makes sure you go shopping several times a week. But it sure does feel good to be home again. (Home is Westlock, AB this time…)

 

I'm back in the land of big fields and big skies! ...and CWB issues.

While down at the neighbours for tea, I was asked what my thoughts were about the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). That seems to be the hot topic right now among western Canadian grain farmers.

 

I spent 2.5 months among the hills, tiny fields and narrow roads of Schleitheim, Switzerland.

The CWB has had a 60 year monopoly for western Canadian farmers’ wheat and barley destined for export and the wheat for domestic human consumption. This has been a bone of contention for many grain farmers for years. They want the right to market their grain themselves just as they do with their other products such as canola and feed grains.

The whole thing came to a head when the Conservative Government introduced Bill C-18 to dismantle the CWB’s single desk monopoly powers. Henry Vos’, and then Jeff Nielson’s resignation from the CWB board following the board’s decision to take the government to court have fuelled the discussions.

I read Les Dunford’s interview with Henry Vos in the Westlock News (and also Henry’s resignation letter). Henry is concerned about the use of farmer’s money to fight for a Status Quo that has little chance of standing. Shouldn’t the energy and money be put instead towards looking forward, adapting to what is reality, and making the most of the opportunity? Jeff Nielson says the board is out of touch with what farmers need.

That is what our neighbour’s son thinks too, and he says is the sentiment of most young farmers that he knows.

I do know that as a new grain farmer in the mid 1990s, I was thankful I didn’t have to worry about marketing my wheat too, while learning to market canola and barley. I imagine that’s the feeling of many farmers, especially the older ones. (Later the CWB policies would be a source of frustration for me.)

So the two sides clash. Sometimes they clash in the same household, as with our neighbours. The Dad is pro CWB, the son against it. Hopefully this issue won’t break apart families and friendships, as such things sometimes do. Disagreement doesn’t equal rejection, my husband sometimes reminds me. It’s a reminder that is apt in the CWB issue.

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