Trashing of wounded wheat board goes unchallenged

It was like the famous description of the theatre critic — a warrior who comes down from the hills after the battle to kill the wounded.

Here was Brant Randles, president of Louis Dreyfus Canada, coming down from the public policy hills at a November grain industry symposium when the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board single desk was politically assured to assert that the mortally wounded CWB was never that important anyway.

No mention, of course, that Dreyfus could be one of the private sector beneficiaries of the demise of the CWB single desk.

And no mention that the CWB actually was a major sponsor of the Canada Grains Council/Grain Growers of Canada industry meeting in Ottawa that gave the Dreyfus executive a podium.

For Randles, it was open season on the CWB and no one in the crowd challenged him.

Multinationals are not taking over the industry, as CWB defenders allege, because homegrown Viterra and Richardson’s have close to 60 percent of market share, he said.

How about the CWB role as a farmer advocate?

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“It is combative rather than collaborative, and the combative style mostly isolates.”

The board has pitted farmers against the industry and everyone knows that industry is not out to screw farmers, said Randles.

And the claim by the CWB and its supporters that the single desk produced hundreds of millions of dollars of premium for farmers?

Not true, argued Randles, who had no one there to contradict him.

The CWB was claiming premiums by comparing board high-end grain sales to what competitors received selling lower quality grain, he said.

“It is misleading to claim generated premiums when selling high quality wheat to low quality buyers.”

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These all are myths created to justify the CWB claim of market benefits because of the existence of the single desk, he said.

The future is in high volume, lower quality grain.

“We have too much high quality wheat in our portfolio,” Randles argued. “We have to target more high yielding but lower quality wheat. That is what the market wants. Why hasn’t the wheat board targeted what the market wants?”

Although the CWB spent money to co-fund the conference and some supporters were in the audience, no one came forward to challenge the Louis Dreyfus analysis of the inappropriate benefit claims of the CWB.

The CWB was politically and terminally wounded. Randles challenged what he said were its justification myths, and at this conference at least, no one challenged him.

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About the author

Barry Wilson — Barry Wilson started work with the Western Producer in 1977 as a reporter in Saskatoon, but not long afterward he moved east to open the paper’s Ottawa bureau. He retired at the end of January, 2014.

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  • Glenn Sawyer

    I am looking forward to selling my Wheat and Malt Barley in an open market just like I have with my Canola for over 37 years. I have never received more for my wheat than a farmer in the Northern U.S. I do not appreciate the pooling options, intial payments, interim payments, final payments, Early Payment Options, Fixed Price Contracts, adjustment factors for feed wheat etc. It was meant, I believe to keep the producer in the dark and thoroughly confuse him. Now we will be able to contract our wheat and barley and receive full payment up front when we deliver. Anything less is uncivilized. I believe, however, that there is a role for the CWB in an open market as a true Farmer Cooperative. If this happens and they offer some good opportunities for my wheat, barley and even my canola then they will get my business. But they will have to earn it.