Monday, November 22, 2010

More misrepresentations

It’s late in the CWB director election and the rhetoric has kicked up a notch.
There are eight candidates running campaigns around what they believe is the importance of the single desk.  They all argue how important the CWB is to farmers as an advocate.  The common strategy seems to say if the CWB loses the single desk, farmers will lose the collective power of the CWB on these non-marketing issues.

There are five other candidates running on platforms for change at the CWB, addressing marketing problems, including net returns to farmers and escalating cost issues.  These five are apparently running on correcting or improving the CWB and its programs, addressing current problems.

Farmers have basically two choices; they can either vote for a candidate that is looking at solving current, real problems or they can vote for a candidate running a “what if” campaign, as in “what if” we lose the single desk.

The “what if” candidates seem to be itching for a fight over the future of the single desk but there’s nobody there to take the other side of the argument.  And now the media has stepped in and taken up the cause for the “what if” group.  There have been a number of recent articles on how there are no candidates running to remove the single desk.

Unfortunately, the media seems to have bought into this notion that the election is all about the single desk.  Never before has so much material about the current workings and activities of the CWB been provided to the media during an election (yes, from me).  Yet during the whole election period (so far) the media has failed to pick up on any of it.  (With the exception of this week’s Producer where there will be an article about my blog – but still not about the content.)

It is really disappointing that the media have made a story of the candidates who have not declared their position on the single desk, yet have failed to talk about how the “what if “candidates won’t talk about current problems with the CWB.  Isn't there a story in that?

Here’s the real story:  there are five candidates out there that are saying, “Let’s not worry or argue about the future of the single desk right now – there are far too many other burning issues that should be dealt with right now”.   They have changed the channel – past CWB elections have been about the single desk, but in this one, these candidates that are working at being more relevant.  And yet some are trying to say they're not being honest.  Give me a break!

CWB Alliance 

A new group has added its voice to the election debates - the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.  Its main offering is a website describing what they believe will happen if we lose the CWB or the single desk.  It is totally aligned with the "what if" crowd.  Nowhere does it address current issues facing farmers right now nor does it come up with any solutions.

And much of what they say is misleading– or just plain wrong.

It’s really unfortunate – even though they present some interesting material, it’s impossible to have any credibility because there is so much wrong or misleading material alongside it.

I could counter all the issues in detail to correct the Alliance.  But to me, that’s not the story.  The real story is the remarkable extent to which they will go to convince farmers that making any changes to the CWB is a huge risk.  It is equally remarkable that they refuse to address current issues that need attention.
The Alliance and the “what if” candidates should be answering the question “What if the CWB and the single desk remains?”  We all know the CWB's not going anywhere, so these candidates should be saying what they are going to do to improve the CWB.
Let’s recap some of the current issues:
  • Durum: poor movement, poor pricing
  • Feed barley:  poor price signals, lack of arbitrage with the domestic market (domestic market held down)
  • Feed wheat: lack of price signals
  • Expenses appear to be out of control   
  • High system costs 
  • No evidence of premiums
  • No fresh ideas
Ironically, a vote for the status quo means nothing will change, leading more and more farmers to revolt against the CWB – including some that might surprise you. 

The "what if" candidates want to fight over the future of the single desk, but they don't address current marketing issues.  Remember, the single desk is THE marketing instrument of the CWB.  It would make sense to argue for the single desk on the basis of marketing performance and related issues yet this group avoids that at every opportunity.  Saying the single desk gets farmers the best returns without proof is not acceptable.

Either the CWB Alliance and the “what if” candidates don’t understand the core marketing issues or they think there are no CWB problems facing farmers, which means they are out of touch.  Or, they do understand the issues but are intentionally avoiding them. 

I’m sure it’s hard to make farmers fearful of losing the single desk when so many are talking about the marketing problems facing the CWB right now – problems that involve the single desk.  

But the Alliance is still going to try.


  1. How many farmers are forced to deal with the diktat?

    How much money does the paper pushing organization suck out of the farmers and the taxpayers?

    How much is that per one farmer?

  2. Not to worry John. Judging by the fact that more people have watched the "cartoon version of the facts of the cwb on youtube" than Wards youtube video on marketing indicates the dissent in western canada.