Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to vote for a voluntary CWB

If you look at the CWB website, it will tell you – to the second – how much time you have left to submit your plebiscite ballot.  As I write this it says 11 days, 11 hours, 39 minutes and 12 seconds.  So those farmers that have yet to decide what to do, there's still time.

The plebiscite question is quite straight forward - pick A or B:

A) I wish to maintain the ability to market all wheat, with the continuing exception of feed wheat sold domestically, through the CWB single-desk system.

B) I wish to remove the single-desk marketing system from the CWB and sell all wheat through an open market system.

There are the same options on barley.

Unfortunately, these two options don't explicitly include a voluntary CWB option. Even so, the CWB's own annual producer survey includes a question that offers a voluntary CWB as an option.  In the most recent survey released this spring, the CWB asked the question (with results in brackets):

"If you had to choose between three different approaches to marketing wheat, which of the following would you prefer?"

A     Solely CWB       (40%)
B     Dual marketing (45%)
C     Open market    (13%)

On barley, the results were similar:

"If you had to choose between three different approaches to marketing barley, which of the following would you prefer?"

A     Solely CWB       (29%)
B     Dual marketing (40%)
C     Open market    (22%)

Anyone I've talked to about this understands “dual marketing” means you can sell your grain to anyone you like, including to the CWB.  It's obvious that this means that the CWB would be an option - a voluntary option.  It does not mean – as the CWB suggests – that the CWB has its single desk in a completely open market.  I agree with them when they say that that's impossible (quite ridiculous to even suggest it, actually); but an open market with a voluntary CWB is clearly possible – and that is what most people understand to be a “dual market”, regardless of what the CWB says.

The CWB survey shows 45% of farmers support a dual market in wheat and 40% in barley; in other words, they support a voluntary CWB.  These are not insignificant numbers.  A very large proportion of farmers support the removal of the single desk if the CWB (or whatever it becomes) is voluntary.  This compares with 40% and 29% for wheat and barley respectively supporting the single desk when a voluntary CWB is an option. (Those supporting Option C, an open market, (13% and 22% respectively) also support the removal of the single desk.  All in all, when presented with reasonable and realistic options, around 60% opt for the removal of the single desk.)

So what gives with the plebiscite question that doesn't give that option, even though the CWB knows that so many farmers would support it?  It's simple; those running the CWB don't like the idea of a voluntary CWB and are doing everything they can to discredit the idea.  But since it's pretty clear that that is the direction we are going, it would make sense to gauge farmer's real interest.

How do I vote if I support a voluntary CWB?

Although I've said that it's a waste of time because it's non-binding, I have received emails and calls from people saying "I really feel like I should vote – but I don't like the options – CWB or no CWB."

If you really think you should vote but prefer to see a "voluntary CWB", vote for the only one of the two options that would allow that; a voluntary CWB fits in an open market because it would not have a single desk.

So if you feel compelled to vote, choose:

B)      I wish to remove the single-desk marketing system from the CWB and sell all wheat (and barley) through an open market system.
You still have 11 days – or thereabouts.

Of course you could still not vote or send your ballot to your MP or to Minister Ritz.  There are many ways to express your position against the single desk.


  1. The CWB chair keeps on saying that the CWB has no rail infrastructure or handling facilities and without those assets they cannot survive in the open market system. Is there not grain marketing companies in the world who exist without infrastructure? If that is the case why is the CWB acting like Custer at Little Big Horn instead of positioning itself for the new reality?

  2. The CWB includes dual marketing in one question on its producer survey because it is interested in a full understanding of what farmers think. The CWB has always maintained that a dual market is a logical impossibility. In that regard, the results you cite are interesting in that they point out that only 13% of farmers want the position you advocate - a wheat market without the CWB as they know it.