Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Now the pollster has it dead wrong

On Aug 13th, I issued a commentary I called “How to vote for a voluntary CWB”.  It now sits on my blog where anybody can offer their own comments.

This particular piece attracted the attention of none other than David Herle (or someone saying he’s David Herle), the Principal Partner of the Gandalf Group – the firm hired by the CWB to conduct its producer surveys.  And it’s my comments about the survey results that caught his attention.

The gist of my comment was that the recent CWB producer survey shows 45% of farmers support a dual market in wheat (a voluntary CWB).  This compares with 40% supporting the single desk on the same question. Those supporting an open market, (13%) obviously also support the removal of the single desk.  All tolled, around 60% opt for the removal of the single desk in one form or another.

Mr. Herle’s comment, in part, (which is also on my blog) is as follows:

"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."

The CWB – and therefore Mr. Herle – is wrong.  The CWB is not listening to farmers – or anyone who opposes the single desk, for that matter.  And Mr. Herle, taking the CWB's view as irrefutable fact is not being objective, which is unfortunate for a pollster.

Mr. Herle states the CWB position that a “dual market is a logical impossibility” and then postulates on that basis that only 13% (those choosing the "open market") want “a wheat market without the CWB as they know it”.  The only way he could come to that conclusion is to assume that, as ludicrous as it sounds, the CWB maintains the single desk in a dual market.  Is this what the CWB told him was the "logical impossibility?"

If Mr. Herle’s understanding of the CWB’s "logical impossibility" of a dual market is one where the single desk competes in an open market, then he would get no argument from me - that would indeed be impossible.  But, no one is talking about that “logical impossibility”.

Let’s put this one behind us once and for all – a dual market means the next generation CWB operates without the single desk or monopoly.  How it operates, and what value it offers, has yet to be determined.  But we know for certain – it won’t have the single desk in a dual market.

In the survey question, the only response where the CWB is assumed to be “as we know it” is Answer A – "Solely CWB”, logging in with 40% of the vote.  The other two answers assume either a different CWB or no CWB at all; either way, no single desk.  Any way you look at it, these two options are votes for, as Herle put it, “a wheat market without the CWB as they know it”.

Perhaps I need to be clearer.

Answer C - the “open market” - is simple enough.  It’s just an open market (no CWB).

Answer B – the dual market – is where farmers could sell to anyone, including the CWB if they chose (which makes it voluntary, not mandatory as it is now).  This means the CWB is not as we know it, because it wouldn't have the single desk.  This is not your father’s wheat board.

Mr. Herle’s own survey shows farmers understood, why doesn't he?  In the survey, those that said they support dual marketing for wheat were also asked:

“Why do you support dual marketing instead of the single desk (for wheat marketing)?”

Responses (with my comments in brackets):

·         59% said “more options/choice to sell independently or to the CWB”. (You see, farmers get it.  They understand that in a dual market, the CWB would operate without a monopoly; not "the CWB as they know it.")
·         21% said “competition is good”.  (Again – they get it.  You can’t have competition when one player has a monopoly.)
·         13% said “could lead to higher prices / better market”.  (How would that happen?  Perhaps through competition – no monopoly.)
·         11% said “like the freedom / sell to whom I want”.  (Need I say it?)
·         9 % said “eliminates any form of a monopoly”. (What can I say?)
·         8% said “forces the CWB to be accountable” (I assume through competition, the CWB would need to provide value - with no monopoly.)

How is it that Mr. Herle cannot see that a dual market means a different CWB when his own survey shows that farmers understand it? Is he telling the 45% that voted for the dual market that they don’t understand what a dual market is (and the CWB does)?

What is a supposedly independent pollster doing taking what appears to be a biased position on the results of his own survey?  Especially when his conclusion requires that he accept his client’s narrow and "logically impossible" view of one option.

Why do I get the impression that Mr. Herle is taking sides on this debate and would really like us to support the CWB and its fight to keep the single desk?

Bottom line- farmers understand a dual market means no single desk. And more than half would support a market like that.


  1. I really enjoy your blogs and normally I just read them and go on with my day, but today I figure that I need to comment.

    I'm confused. The CWB tells us that they do an amazing job marketing our grain. I listened to a conference call where they told me that they add an EXTRA $500 to $600 million YEARLY to farmers' bank accounts, and that if the CWB disappears we should be compensated. I've also read, and have been told many times, that most farmers want the single desk of the CWB to remain intact. Ok, so here's where my confusion begins.

    If there is no longer the single desk and giving our grain to the CWB is no longer mandatory, only a small percentage of the farmers will try to market their own grain. (They tell me this is true). Going by what they tell me, those few farmers will try for a year or two, but will realize that the CWB is wonderful and go crawling back. (they do make us 100's of millions of dollars extra, remember).

    However, the CWB is scared it seems, terrified even. They say that they will no longer be viable if they have to be competitive. Without being mandatory it's impossible for them to survive. Why is that? Are there actually more farmers who want marketing freedom? Or is it possible that they've lied to us and they don't want us to find out how poorly they market our grain. Perhaps farmers will make MORE money without the CWB.

    Now how does one interpret this? If we believe them and they truly do a great job, then they wouldn't be worried at all. Why are they worried? Have they been lying to us? Do they actually sell our grain below world price? Or BUY grain from other countries when the price is high? No, that would mean they've been lying to us, and how could they lie to farmers? Their lack of confidence in their own abilities speaks volumes, doesn't it?

  2. If one contracts wheat for example %4.00 and next week wheat contracts are $2.00 The week after there may be openings for wheat at $6.00 Here I digress. How can one provide statistical data when there has never been an opportunity since 1943?

  3. Sounds like Mr. Herle's judgement has been clouded by the flow of funds the CWB pays his company. Maybe he doesn't want the gravy train to end. It seems the parasites feeding off the monopoly have the loudest voices in support of it.

  4. What is the difference between a dual market and an open market?

  5. Mr. Hearle - the difference between a dual market and an open market is a VIABLE CWB. IF the CWB is viable a dual market is possible. If it isn't then I guess we're better off with our open market. Any other questions?