Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CWB Producer Surveys vs the CWB Plebiscite

The CWB conducts producer surveys twice a year. The most recent one was conducted between April 1st and April 15th and released June 29, 2011.  The next one is planned for the fall.

They ask loads of questions. The ones I’m interested in are those that relate to the question of marketing freedom.

On the question whether you want the status quo (single desk) or the open market (presumably without the CWB in any form) for wheat, 59% of farmers say they want the status quo.

When the question offers a third option – the “dual market”, the support for the status quo drops to 41%; the dual market option picks up 45% approval – more prefer the dual market idea to the status quo.  (The rest want an open market without the CWB at all.)

On barley, farmers faced with just two options – status quo or open market – showed only 37% support the status quo.  (It’s been this low for years; makes you wonder why the CWB has never listened to farmers and given up barley.  But that’s an argument for another day.)

When the question offers a third option – the “dual market” – the support for the status quo drops to 29%; the dual market option picks up 40% approval. (The rest don’t want the CWB involved at all.)

The CWB has constantly and consistently said that the concept of a “dual market” is impossible.  Under the “myths” section of its website, the CWB states: “The dual market is a myth. There either is or is not a single desk.”  According to Allen Oberg, “the CWB is the single desk”.  No single desk – no CWB.

I believe there are many things the CWB could be doing in an open market, if it only had the vision to see past its single desk.  It seems that close to half the farmers out there agree. 

I think farmers understand the “dual market” idea – the idea that the CWB could perform services even without the single desk.  Restated, the three optional answers to the question are (1) the status quo (no change) – “solely CWB”; (2) a voluntary CWB operating in an open market - the dreaded “dual marketing”; and (3) an open market with no CWB in any form – the “open market”.

Much of the 59% and 37% support for the single desk on wheat and barley, respectively, is soft support. It’s clear that many of them would have opted for a voluntary CWB – if given the choice.

There are two points to be made here:

1.      Assuming the CWB surveys over the years have been conducted in a fair and reasonable manner, and the “plebiscite” is also fair, there is no reason to believe that the results will be any different.  Why do we need a “plebiscite” that is really just another survey? 

2.      The CWB’s own surveys have shown the majority of farmers want a choice including a different CWB – not the status quo.  You can be sure the CWB’s plebiscite won’t reflect that.

3.      None of this really matters.  Not the surveys, not the plebiscite.  Voting on how someone conducts his personal business is not the same as voting in an election.  One is a vote on how to run the affairs of an organization; the other is a vote on how to run your affairs.

This plebiscite is one really big red herring.  It’s a stall tactic.  Why else engage in a big, expensive exercise that will not mean anything in the grand scheme of things. 

The CWB is conducting the “plebiscite” to draw attention to what they are saying is the government’s rejection of farmers’ “democratic rights”.  They’re hoping people will feel badly for the poor farmer and put pressure on the government to back down.  

They’re saying farmers need to be able to decide for themselves (by a vote) how their grain is marketed (not government).  How ironic.  Those that want marketing freedom from the CWB have been saying that is all they’ve ever wanted – the freedom to decide for themselves.

You don’t make decisions for yourself by a vote; that’s how you make decisions for others.
Quote of the day:

I wish there was a way of getting the message out to people... IF 99% of farmers voted in favour of keeping the single desk, what right does that give those people to say where and who the rest of the 1% must sell their wheat and barley to or through!!!

This has been driving me nuts for years!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, John. Finally somebody hit the nail on the head. All the talk about economics is relevant to the issue, but often seems to cloud this central point - that at bottom, it is a question of freedom.

    Of course, profit gives us freedom as well, but not the same kind of freedom. So perhaps the question farmers need to ask themselves is: should they sacrifice political freedom (intrinsic freedom; freedom of choice) for the lesser forms of freedom (extrinsic freedom; free time or economic choice, etc) that wealth brings (IF IF IF the CWB can provide them such wealth) or should the lesser forms of freedom contingent upon this "IF" (this is a choice and thus does represent some real freedom being sacrificed) be given up in principle to gain political freedom and the mixed economic bag that will surely come from nixing the CWB? Keep up the good work!