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Calvert, Doer call for immediate wheat board vote
SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer Friday called upon the federal government to hold an immediate plebiscite on the Canadian Wheat Board's single-desk marketing authority.

"There will be those who support the concept of single-desk marketing, those who do not," said Calvert at a Friday morning news conference in Saskatoon. "But surely we can resolve that; we can all support the democratic right of the producer to choose. I'm expecting the national government will do the right thing."

The Canadian Wheat Board currently has a monopoly that allows it to market all western wheat and barley. One of the largest marketers in the world, the CWB sells grain to more than 70 countries.

However, a seven-member federal task force proposed in October a scenario where farmers could sell barley outside of the board beginning in February 2008, with the monopoly for wheat ending six months later. The task force also recommended a producer-owned CWB II, in which farmers could purchase shares.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl announced a plebiscite on the CWB would take place next year for barley marketing but producers will not be asked, at least for now, if they want to continue the single-desk marketing system for wheat or be allowed to opt out and sell on the open market.

"I hear people that are absolutely supporting the single-desk system that support a vote, and I've heard people that are opposed to it wanting a vote. This is actually one principle of this debate that unites farmers," said Doer.

Adding to the urgency of the matter, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool announced last week its intention to merge with Agricore Ltd., a deal that would bring together Canada's biggest grain handlers. Calvert said the move shows that the wheat pool believes it needs to get bigger.

"Here we have a federal government suggesting that we can shrink the Canadian Wheat Board, essentially into some kind of minor grain company, and that it's supposed to survive and provide the benefit to the producer. The logic here doesn't follow," said Calvert.

"If we're talking about a strong Canadian Wheat Board that has the single-desk marketing, they're in a much, much better position to represent the interested producers. If it's some other formation of the Wheat Board ... of course it's not going to provide the same benefit."

Supporters of the board's monopoly say it provides farmers the best prices in a competitive global market, while opponents contend they could get better prices by selling their grain independently.
MGR Archive 12.11.2006
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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