WINNIPEG – Manitoba Pool Elevators delegates have voted to temper their long-standing policy of opposing changes to the Crow Benefit method of payment and negotiate the best deal possible.
The resolution, approved during a closed session early in the week, calls on MPE officials “to enter into meaningful discussions with the appropriate parties to obtain the best settlement regarding possible changes to the method of payment and Canadian Wheat Board pooling policies.”
“This resolution does not say that pay the railways is not an option – but it is not the only option,” said transportation committee chair Ken Edie.
Edie said the federal government has served notice it plans to change the method of payment, under the Crow Benefit, which will likely result in similar changes to how the Canadian Wheat Board distributes the costs of shipping grain east of Thunder Bay.
Manitoba farmers could take a “double-hit” on freight rate increases if the government moves forward with changes unilaterally.
“What was being felt is that we had to get in there and work for whatever was best for Manitoba farmers with whatever was available and whatever government commitment we can maintain,” Edie said.
Resolution changes policy
But the debate left some delegates complaining afterwards they didn’t understand the resolution would change the organization’s policy. Many delegates said they allowed the resolution to pass reluctantly.
“I think we’re going to take some of the political heat off the government,” said Beausejour farmer Andy Baker.
Baker believes the proposed changes to the Western Grain Transportation Act are a precursor to farmers losing grain transportation subsidies altogether.
“I think if we’d maintained our position and said if you want to get rid of it, … then you suffer the political consequences. Don’t draw all of the farm organizations into it.”
And the decision was denounced by National Farmers Union spokesperson Keith Proven, who told delegates they were wrong to cave in to government pressure.
“When you change policy you have to change policy to make sure its for the common good. You don’t change policy because you are frightened, and you don’t change policy for the sake of changing,” Proven said.