By Roger Currie
Do you remember the Canadian Wheat Board? Until two years ago, it had a monopoly when it came to the marketing of Canada’s wheat and barley. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and company ended that, but the CWB continues on. Under legislation passed by parliament, they are to be completely privatized by the summer of 2017.
Recently, a farmers’ group based in Saskatchewan offered to purchase the CWB. It sounded like they were trying to reinvent the prairie pools which bought grain from farmers before the big multi-nationals like Louis Dreyfus and Bunge took over. CWB turned down the offer, and it now appears that a deal has quietly been put together to basically give the Wheat Board away to Archer-Daniels-Midland, another of those multi-nationals, this one based in Chicago.
Pat Martin is the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre, and the opposition Ag critic in the Commons. He laid all this out during Question Period, but his wording was so rough and ready that the speaker, Andrew Scheer, said Minister Gerry Ritz did not have to answer. So, no one knows for sure what’s happening, and relatively few people seem to care.
There was a time, in the days when Jean Beliveau was starring for the Habs, that prairie farm interests were something of a sacred trust on Parliament Hill. That was long ago. In 2014, the majority of Canadians have no idea where their food comes from, or where the food that our farmers grow ends up.
We do know that everything at the supermarket keeps costing more. Food prices are rising faster than the rate of inflation, and thankfully no one is blaming the farmer on the prairies. Wherever the money from those higher prices is going, it doesn’t seem to be ending up in farmers’ pockets. It sure would be nice to get some honest explanations from somebody.
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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.