This past weekend, CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition included an interview with Professor John Herd Thompson, an academic who has documented the history of the Canadian Wheat Board. The CBC program’s website notes, “The Wheat Board, as we know it today, was established in 1935 to control prices, so as to benefit farmers in the Great Depression. …There are some 75,000 farmers across the Prairies who make their livelihood from it. And to sell their wheat, they have depended for generations on the Canadian Wheat Board. …Now, however, the Wheat Board could be gone by Christmas. The Conservative government has been promising to get rid of it for years, and with its majority in parliament, is making good on that promise.”
To listen to this very informative interview, go to the 29 minute mark of Hour Three of the program at http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2011/11/13/post/.
Professor Herd Thompson highlights:
– the Canadian Wheat Board is essentially a compulsory pooling of grain, and ‘single-desk’ selling of this grain means farmers can get the best price for their crop on international markets
– compulsory pooling of wheat has never been popular with large-scale farmers, but the Canadian Wheat Board has been an ‘astonishingly successful’ instrument for family farms
– the Canadian Wheat Board sets a target price for grain to be sold, pays the farmer, and when the grain is actually sold on the market may pay the farmer a second or even a third time
– the Canadian Wheat Board is not supply management (where imports are limited and pricing policies can be imposed), but it is a monopoly (100 percent compulsory) in terms of sales
– without the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian government will lose its ability to ‘manage’ the marketing of Canadian grain
– large private corporations – like Archer Midland Daniels – will benefit from the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board
– the Australian Wheat Board was privatized about five years ago
– once the Wheat Board is gone, another government cannot bring it back because it is essentially being ‘grandfathered’ and runs contrary to NAFTA and WTO disciplines.
For Council of Canadians blogs – including action alerts – on the Canadian Wheat Board, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22canadian+wheat+board%22.