Letters to the editor – February 6, 2014

GGC POSITION CLARIFIED

In The Western Producer article of Jan. 23, “Rail service gets Ottawa’s ear,” an editing error implied that the Grain Growers of Canada supports the removal of the railway maximum grain revenue entitlement, or what is commonly known as the revenue cap. We would like to clarify this is not correct.

As a grower driven organization, we would need to see conclusive proof that lifting the cap would actually improve rail service and return more money to us before giving consideration to such a proposal.

GGC is a member of the Coalition of Rail Shippers, which is made up of shippers that generate 80 percent of Canadian National Railway’s and Canadian Pacific Railway’s annual revenue.

In our experience with the coalition, we talk to many other sectors which do not have the railway revenue cap.

They too have huge concerns over their level of service from railways across Canada, leading us to believe that the simple removal of the cap would likely increase farmers’ costs with no guarantee of better service and that would not be in producers’ best interests.

I can assure all farmers that the Grain Growers of Canada is aggressively advocating on behalf of producers at all levels with the railways, industry and government to find solutions to get our grain moving to meet our customers’ needs.

Gary Stanford,
President, Grain Growers of Canada

ORGANIC ABUNDANCE

I am writing in response to the WP, Nov. 28/13 op ed, “Can world afford luxury of organics?”

The piece talks about food security. The author states the world population will grow by two billion people over the next 20 years and wonders how we will feed these people.

As an organic farmer, I wonder the same thing. I also wonder about herbicide resistance to weeds, soil degradation from overuse of fertilizer and chemicals and insect resistance to pesticides.

As more weeds become resistant to herbicides and spread, at some point the chemicals we are using won’t be effective. Now what do we do? Many farmers, researchers, governments are also starting to ask what do we do next?

Organic farming practices are pioneering sustainable agricultural methods that work with the environment. These methods will continue to work when herbicide resistant weeds cannot be controlled with chemicals.

The current model of conventional farming is very fragile. Once chemicals are no longer effective, food production will begin to decline.

The organic model is sustainable and with further research can be improved to increase production. Good organic farming practices can produce abundant healthy crops to feed the growing world population. Maybe organic farming is a luxury we cannot let fail.

Brent Blackburn,
Estevan, Sask.

HURT NOT HELP

Re: “Ritz reshapes ag sector”, WP Jan. 2.

(Agriculture minister) Mr. (Gerry) Ritz is thumping his chest and claiming he has done so much for farmers.

He has done more to hurt farmers than any recent agriculture minister by giving in to multinationals and chemical companies at farmers’ expense. Every move he makes has taken power away from the farmers he claims to be helping.

His original Bill C-18 exposed the grain industry to multinational greed and largess. The Canadian Wheat Board distributed profits back to farmers.

With our glut of production this year we are seeing the grain companies saying “here is the price, take or leave it.” This was the making of the CWB in the first place.

He claims the rail companies are doing a real good job and would be able to do better if the revenue cap was removed. Who pays for this? The farmer. Getting rid of the Crow didn’t improve rail service.

The new Bill C-18 is taking income from farmers again and giving it to private companies. He says international companies are interested in investing in Canada, certainly if the government gives them the opportunity to make money with this bill.

What happened to AgriInvest and AgriStability? We get Going Forward 2, which is leaning more to industry than producers. Revamping the Canadian Grain Commission is taking more money out of farmers’ pockets.

Not being concerned about the high farm debt is false economy. The cure for high prices is high prices, so we can see which side of the curve we are on. This all depends on world weather conditions.

The Canada-EU trade deal is wishful thinking. It will benefit Europe more than Canada. Prime minister (Stephen) Harper used this deal to mask problems at home.

We can’t get rid of this kind of farmer help fast enough.

Bernie von Tettenborn,
Round Hill, Alta.

GOVERNMENT TO BLAME

All the talk this winter has been about the congested grain handling system.

Yes, the Prairies had a good crop last year. Yes, we have had a number of good years in the price department. What is happening now with the lack of movement of grain and the falling prices is ridiculous and unacceptable.

A few years back, this situation would have been more than enough to spur government-appointed organizations such as the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Alberta Barley Commission and the Canola Council of Canada to point fingers at the Canadian Wheat Board. The CWB was blamed for the mounting costs to farmers for demurrage as ships waited at the ports. The CWB was blamed for not having better control on the grain handling system. Well, they don’t have the CWB to blame anymore. Oddly, those same accusing voices are now quiet.

If you’re looking to pin blame on anyone, let’s start with the provincial and federal governments. It was the Alberta government who pushed the hardest to dismantle the CWB and it was the federal Conservative government that unilaterally took away the single desk marketing ability of the CWB.

The federal government is also responsible for overseeing railway operations and should be held accountable for the miserable record of grain movement to the ports. As a result of the negligence of the federal government on this issue, we find our grain handling system totally congested, leaving us unable to move our grain. This has been a significant contributing factor in the falling grain prices.

So, if there are ships waiting to be filled and there are full grain elevators across the Prairies waiting for rail cars, the question you have to ask is why the federal government has not been more proactive. New hopper cars need to be added to the fleet and turnaround times have to be tightened up.

Delivering the right grain to the right terminal in a timely fashion, previously a well-managed CWB function, appears to no longer be anyone’s responsibility.

You don’t need a commission to solve these issues. However, if there are other larger factors at play, perhaps a commission would serve a valuable purpose. But, for the moment, let (agriculture) minister (Gerry) Ritz stop the rhetoric and use his mandate to take action on the immediate transportation problems.

Neil Gorda,
Willingdon, Alta.

PEOPLE CATCHING ON

Re: ‘Prepare for more to succumb to anti-GMO pressure’ (WP, Jan. 9). (Kevin) Hursh’s use of the term “anti-science” (implies) that an anti-GMO stance is a flat-earth stance.

The reason science is failing to sway the masses is that people are catching on to the uncanny correlation between scientifically reported results and who is paying the scientists.

Greg deJong,
Clearwater, Man.

FALL DELIVERY

I can’t understand why grain producers are complaining about not being able to deliver grain to their elevators. Have they forgotten that (agriculture minister) Gerry Ritz said farmers wouldn’t have to start their trucks in winter because in an open market they could deliver all their wheat in fall?

Bev Currie,
Swift Current, Sask.

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