Forces at work

FTLComm -Tisdale - Wednesday, November 6, 2002
Yesterday this web site posted a story by Waldeck farmer Henry Neufeld as he suggested that the organisation that is promoting and supplying resources for candidates to run as directors for the Canadian Wheat Board called CARE is merely a front for Agricore - United. That was my starting point and this morning as I drove around I was more than a little confused by what I saw.

Having visited CARE's
web site yesterday there was clear indication that this interest group represents what might be described as the anti-wheat board faction. Each of the candidates is a representative of either big business or an organisation which has come out against the sort of marketing board concept that is the Canadian Wheat Board.

But what confused me this morning was a third name with yet more road signs. Brad Hanmer, a Govan farmer and vice-president of the Canadian Canola Growers Association. Now the reason this seemed odd to me is why would he, Bill Rusk a member of the Agricore United advisory committee and former Cargill elevator manager, and the CEO of the Wadena NorthEast Terminal Ltd. all sponsored by the same interest group, CARE be running against one another in the same district.

I am after all a curious person, but pretty clueless when it comes to something like the workings of the Wheat Board, but earlier this week Edwin Wallace, a long time supporter of the Canadian Wheat Board wrote a
nice explanation of how the Wheat Board works, so I thought I should give him a call and see if he could explain this oddity to me. Edwin farms near Stewart Valley North of Swift Current. He was out working in his shop, Edwin is also, like so many farmers, not only a handiman, but also an inventor and has been working on building equipment to extract combustible gas from wood chips and straw.

Now, it is important to know that besides being a farmer and inventor Edwin, has a thorough understanding of politics and especially the weird world of agricultural politics. His explanation for this odd situation, of a pressure group bent on destroying the Canadian Wheat Board having three of their own boys running in one district suggests that two things are at work. Clearly, there is no shortage of money for campaigning, though there is a $15,000 limit on campaign spending and the campaign just about to begin Anderson, Rusk and Hanmer had already forked out a lot of heavy money for their road signs. The second factor is that if the Wheat Board opposing forces run three candidates against one pro-Wheat Board person, the incumbent sitting director, Melville farmer Michael Halyk, they would gut his support in the various parts of the district and one of them may come through.

Edwin explained that CARE was orginally heavily supported and encouraged by the provincial NDP government which is hardly a surprise, since its concern for agriculture has been subterrain to say the least. Today the provincial government announced a $50 support payment to every marketed hog in the province, to help out the hog producers. This is a rather belated recogntion of the plight of this sector of the agricultural economy, as almost all farm based hog operation disappeared close to a decade ago and the major producers now are monster corporations. The Weekes barn will soon realise $350,000 per month on that subsidy, I sure hope the tax paying folks in Regina and Saskatoon can afford this kind of swine support.

But I needed more, Edwin had given me several ideas about the problem as we talked about the nature of the Wheat Board and how it is clearly such a missunderstood institution. Below is what Rebecca Gingrich from Toronto had to say about the "poor" Alberta farmers who elected to serve jail time for export permit violations.
Timothy--Edwin may promote the CWB in any way he sees fit. But the fact remains that it is COMPULSORY for a western farmer to operate under the thumb of the Board, and therefore the Feds. No one is arguing the fact that some farmers like and use the CWB for their advantage---BUT--why are farmers that do not want to use the CWB as their broker, forced into that situation, by law. The fact that the CWB applies ONLY to the West is discrimination. Mr Goodale, through his non answers in The House, states that Ontario also has a wheat board--but he neglects to mention that it is voluntary use by farmers in that region. Only is the West under the communistic control of the CWB and the federal government. There is NO FEDERAL MINISTER in charge of the Ontario Wheat Board! I understand that the people cannot find information on budgets, incomes or costs of the CWB. Don't feel bad--even the AG is not allowed to know those figures!

The western farmer has been advised to diversify over the years. When some Sask farmers tried to start a pasta flour mill, the CWB stopped that idea--they may lose control of the grain! Instead western farmers are forced to sell the same wheat through the CWB to the US, and then buy back the flour made from their own wheat, from the Americans. How much sense does this make? Many farmers want the choice of where to sell their grain--is that a crime in Canada--apparently so.

I can see why Rebecca might feel as she does, after all Toronto is a long way from Tisdale, but a few years ago I had a customer in Denmark who wanted to buy some printer inkjet cartridges from me. Seemed like a simple thing, right? Well it is not, International trade is regulated and Faster Than Light Communications in Tisdale Saskatchewan can not sell printer inkjet cartridges to a customer in Denmark unless an export permit is obtained. Failure to obtain an export permit is "against the law".

A maritime automobile broker has the sale of 35,000 GM Impalas made in Canada, but he can't move one of them because Washington refuses to okay the sale, even though the cars are made in Canada, they include some American made parts and sale of those cars to Iraq is not permitted.

The farmers of Western Canada do not have the right to sell their grain internationally without an export permit, that is the law, they broke the law so sports fans, that is that.

Eastern Canadian regulations regarding the marketing of products are very different and definitely should be. Their circumstances and commodity volumes are simply not in the same league and this is where most people, be they in the East or urban dwellers in the West, misunderstand the situation. The farm world is not one of uniform farms. Dave has less than a thousand acres under cultivation, while a few miles down the road Jack has 15,000, Tom and Bob have about 3,500 while their neighbour Calvin has about 5,400. (in this part of the world 5,400 arcres of crop is about eleven square miles of property and Jack's 15,000 is about the size of a township) With these kinds of operations many can afford to take the chance and wheel and deal on the world market, they have production that would feed some African countries, while others have to work in concert with each other and hence the Wheat Board was established after the depression to give everyone a fair shake. Fairness is a good thing and that needs to be said.

When you drive through Saskatchewan you will drive by swathed fields that farmers were unable to harvest. The crop laying out there in most of those fields is worth about $30,000 a quarter and that is on the conservative side of things. Western Canadian agriculture is not small stuff, if you were in the right part of Saskatchewan this year and were able to get the crop off the 3,500 acres planted, you now have close to half a million dollars with which you can pay your bills. If you were in the wrong place you have the bills but nothing to pay.

After talking with Edwin it was clear that I had to find out more about who is running in District 7 and got through to Michael Halyk. Michael had set up his campaign to win re-election for a seat on the Canadian Wheat Board, Board of Directors and was launching his campaign today with some radio ads and he does not plan to wall paper the road sides with signs. The $15,000 campaign budget limit just would not permit that kind of extravagance.

On November 14 at 7:00 in Nipawin's Oddfellows Hall Michael Halyk, Brad Hanmer, Dwayne Anderson and the local guy, Bill Rusk will be at the all candidates meeting.

Yesterday, CBC Regina did some
amazing journalism and turned up the existence of an advisor committee developed by Monsanto to assist it in moving "Round-up Ready" Wheat to a field near you. We have long known that Monsanto is determined to develop this crop, but this latest development is a bit of a shocker. What they have done is sign up leaders in various organisations and agricultural groups such as CARE. The members of their committee are signed on to a secrecy agreement and money is involved.

The Canadian Wheat Board sensing that were genetically modified wheat to spread into the grain produced in Western Canada, those parts of the world which include all of Europe and now a growing number of third world countries would refuse to import. (Some starving African countries are currently refusing food aid from Canada because they fear that the product may be genetically engineered.) With this as a known factor, the Wheat board has said "NO" to Monsanto and it looks like the this monster St. Louis Mousouri based company has found a solution. Pump money, lots of money into the election of Canadian Wheat Board directors, buy seats and thereby buy a change of Wheat Board policy.

You would think that facing the weather, American subsidies, an indifferent provincial and federal government would be enough adversity for one industry but there is more, much more. With the encouragement of pro-american governments in Ottawa and Regina companies like Monsanto can design the kind of income they want in the future. The open door on their web site infers that scientific progress will increase agricultural wealth and production, but the bottom line is Monsanto's bottom line and that is to increase its wealth and margin of profit.

The Wheat Board is a serious thorn its side and co-opting it by putting Monsanto controlled Directors in charge makes perfect sense to businessmen in St. Louis in a business climate that depends entirely on going to the limit of what ever laws exist, then taking one step beyond.

I urge you not to take my word for anything here, but go to their web sites and evaluate the content. Ask yourself if the CARE candidates look like folks who will defend Canadian agriculture or look after their own bottom line. Ask yourself if Monsanto is a humanitarian company, or is it a corporation designed and operated to extract the maximum profits obtainable. These are the forces of the economic jungle. A farmer can not alone cope with weather, indifferent politicians, lawyers from American corporations, grain companies, the speculation of commodity markets and his fellow competing farmers and hope to stay in the business. This lesson was learned in 1935 and should not be forgotten.

Timothy W. Shire

Questions raised over Monsanto panel, November 5, 2002, CBC Regina
Monsanto plans genetically modified wheat in five years, July 13, 2001, CBC Fredericton
CARE web site
Canadian Wheat Board web site
2002 Canadian Wheat Board elections of directors web site
Michael Halyk web site
Monsanto web site


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