Feds must compensate for CWB assets

We are the four representative plaintiffs named in the class action lawsuit seeking to recover $17 billion in damages on behalf of western Canadian wheat and barley farmers stemming from the federal decision to end the Canadian Wheat Board.

After assessing the Federal Court’s ruling on the government’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit, this is why we have decided to press ahead with an appeal.

The CWB owned hard and soft assets at the time that its single desk was dissolved and the farmer board of directors dismissed. These assets had been paid for entirely by farmers.

Hard assets include the building, rail cars, grain ships and information systems. The large value soft assets included customer relationships, quality premiums, staff development and the CWB brand.

For the hard assets, pool accounts were charged a depreciation charge to pay for them in the years following the purchase. Thus, farmers paid directly out of their own pockets for these assets.

In the final years of farmer control, farmers made these purchases with the understanding that all farmers would receive an income stream that more than offset the costs of the assets.

The case on the soft assets is similar.


The decision to invest in branding western Canadian wheat and barley and their products was an investment strategy to move farmers higher up the value chain. Each of these investments was paid for by farmers.

Decisions were always made based on the business case that the future stream of benefits to farmers would outweigh the costs of these investments.

The branding contributed to Canadian grain topping the price charts during the price rally in 2008.

The process of farmers investing in their future was ramped up following the move to a new corporate structure with farmer control in 1998:

  • The computer information system was rebuilt and modernized.
  • The building was renovated.
  • A major branding initiative was developed to raise Canadian wheat and barley prices above the basic commodity values for these crops.

One reason for this increase in investment was that the 1998 legislation made the investment climate clear.

The value of investments depended on the future of the single desk. The future of the single desk was to be determined by a farmer vote. Thus, according to legislation at the time, the future stream of income from these investments would belong to farmers unless farmers voted to give them up.


As a result, the case that farmers deserve compensation for the seizure of these assets deserves further review for at least two reasons:

  • Farmers bought and paid for the assets.
  • Farmers made these investments in a business and legislated environment in which farmers were assured that they would capture the stream of benefits from these investments. The only way farmers would lose the benefits is if they chose to vote to give them up. The government not only seized the assets, they also changed the investment environment without the required farmer vote.

It is particularly important that the laws on future benefits of investments be reviewed in light of the recent developments to establish wheat and barley commissions.

These commissions will allegedly be allowed to invest in new varieties and other research, which will make western Canadian farmers more competitive in the long term. To be successful, farmers must know that these varieties will not be seized and turned over to the seed companies with which the varieties were developed to compete.

Most international trade and investment agreements provide assurances that investors will be compensated if national rules are changed. It is imperative that Canadians test this to see if we can be assured parallel treatment in case assets that we have bought in one legislated environment are seized by a subsequent government.

The authors are farmers from the four western provinces.


  • Grant

    Ritz’s reckless policy, where truth and fact don’t seem to be a part of his vocabulary. Reported losses to the farmer of 5 billion this year, the losses last year of high protein premiums. This disorderly marketing is going to cost farmers a way more than 17 billion . A week or two ago I thought Ritz was Railway Minister, when he said “railways are doing an adequate job”.

  • Roy

    We are all tired of the supporters of the old CWB whipping a dead horse. Move on, the new CWB is far more business minded and connected to producers as it now has competition. In the last number of years, there has been significant change to the way farmers conduct their business, unfortunately, their is a very small minority that wish we could go back to the 1950’s and all will be great. The leaders in agriculture are very progressive thinkers, these people are not!

    • “Unfortunately, there is a very small minority”…….unfortunately, since the promised vote was disregarded. we will never know, will we?
      All tired of old CWB supporters….take a nap. Business minded and progressive thinkers need lots of rest.

    • We as farmers including my grandparents and parents , who are long gone ,, paid for all these items we are fighting for ,,, I used to be a cwb wheat board supporter like my father and my grandfather before him ,, I have a double major in economics from the university of alberta ,, the cwb was the best thing all Canadian farmers could have hoped for ,, unfortunately it is gone , along with most of the final payment we were supposed to get the last year it truly was around ,, token payment showed up this year ,, one tenth of what it could have been ,, and years past due I might add ,, As for the assets they belong to us ,, if you are a true Canadian farmer , you would not dismiss this fact ,, the ships should never have been purchased in the first place as they never came into use until the demise of the true cwb ,, hmm , someone planned ahead ,, the railcars are ours ,,,, I don’t know about you ,, the last few years of wheat with the cwb always got sold ,, this year I shoulda seeded Kentucky bluegrass ,, lol cause I have enough wheat from last year to sell all winter with our current grain marketing system at the lowest price in almost 10 years ,, at the highest inputs I have ever seen ,,, that spells trouble financially for true farmers ,, so wake up buddy and get with the program ,,, sell these assets give the money back to the farmers and we need to overhaul the marketing system now that the Feds messed it up and we need totally overhaul the rail system. Before the only thing left in our free country are giant inefficient corporate farms . It’s a proven fact family farms are the most efficient land users and produce the Highest quality products !!!

  • ed

    Maybe we could totally overhaul the marketing system and end up with a model almost exactly like the old single desk CWB, (CGB. Canadian Grains Board) for all grains. Just on Canola alone farmers are losing Billions of dollars annually because of the price taker and non transparent and unaccountable nature of the way farmers are forced to market it. The losses to the Canadian economy are staggering.

  • Edward

    Although “we are all tired” guy is one of the few members of that “all” group, his opinion has some value in how not to think when marketing a product. Don’t try and acquire a job in retail sales. Giving away collective power and strategy to lower the price of their product and thus lowering their net profit is not what they are into. You maybe confusing marketing power with taking out your competition, a completely different economic strategy. In the case of anti-board thinkers, that is mistakenly believed to be their neighbors.