Ottawa delivers freedom to farmers over protests of Wheat Board

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Finally, Canada has a federal agriculture minister who understands why a government monopoly over prairie wheat and barley marketing is incompatible with democratic rights.

Monday, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) released the results of a rigged plebiscite it held this summer among grain growers – a plebiscite designed to show how much farmers still love the board – and the response of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was spot on.

The Conservative government has announced it will move this fall to repeal the CWB’s monopoly over wheat and barley grown for human consumption in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and northeastern B.C. This prompted the board (which cannot imagine life without its monopoly power) to ask western wheat and barley growers whether they wanted to retain the monopoly or move to a fully open market. Among wheat growers, 62% voted for the monopoly. Among barley growers, just 51% did.

This prompted wheat board chairman, Allen Oberg to proclaim that the federal government is “out of touch with farmers.” He declared his group’s plebiscite is “the deepest expression of all of what farmers really want and the minister should listen.”

To which Mr. Ritz replied “No expensive survey can trump the individual right of farmers to market their own grain.”

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