Wheat Board holds meeting with farmers to talk about its fate

Hundreds of Prairie farmers left their fields Monday and some picked up placards that read “Single desk is the best” and “Our board, our business.”

REGINA — Hundreds of Prairie farmers left their fields Monday and some picked up placards that read “Single desk is the best” and “Our board, our business.”

They went to a meeting in Regina on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The federal government plans to introduce legislation this fall to pave the way for the removal of the board’s single-desk selling system next year. Board chairman Allen Oberg said the meeting is to make farmers aware of what’s at stake.

“Those functions currently carried out by the CWB, they may be at risk because no one knows going forward who’s going to take care of those functions,” said Oberg.

“There’s a tremendous of amount of uncertainty in the system and that’s been created by an artificially short timeline of August 1, 2012.”

Since the 1940s, Prairies farmers have had to sell their wheat and barley to the board, which exports it to foreign markets. It is the largest marketer of wheat and barley in the world and the last remaining board of its kind.

Those who like the board argue its monopoly insulates farmers from selling at a loss when markets are low.

But opposers say the monopoly is unfair and restricts farmers from marketing their grain to the highest bidder.

Edward Sagan, who has been farming in Melville, Sask., for about 50 years, said ending the board’s monopoly will hurt his bottom line.

“I will have less and less money in my pocket,” he said.

Sagan noted that the wheat board sells to 70 different countries.

He said he would rather focus on growing crops instead of trying to figure out where to market his grain.

“I don’t have to sit beside a computer and decide who pays me the most money and all that. I sell my grain to the wheat board and they do the rest. They do the marketing for me.”

It was standing room only for the meeting in a venue that holds about 400 people.

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