Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

The grain marketing universe is unfolding as it should for the federal government, the three most western provincial governments, Western Canadian agri-business of all shapes and sizes, and the thousands of farmers looking forward to entrepreneurial freedom.  However, the wheels are falling off the efforts of single desk supporters, leading to what appears to be desperation.  
Take the recent CWB Alliance news release; it is so absurd I thought it was a joke when I first read it.  It is so farfetched, it smacks of desperation as it attempts to make the loss of the single desk seem scary to the general public by saying that the quality of Canadian food will drop and the price will go up with the loss of the single desk.  The logic they use is utterly ridiculous.  To be fair and not misrepresent it, the following is taken directly from the CWB Alliance news release called “End of wheat board means end of local food”:

"Without the Wheat Board human food processors will be free to import lower quality grains from the United States and Eurasia which are not subject to our high quality standards and blend them with local grain.  These foreign grains are not grown from our own publically funded and developed varieties and many of them are grown in the heavily polluted lands surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the heart of Eurasia’s wheat belt.  A lot of Europe’s grain is cheap because it is heavily infested with fungal diseases.  In fact a lot of Canadian durum wheat now goes into Europe to blend off fusarium infected local durum.  Without the Wheat Board this trade could well be reversed.”

First, "human food processors" in Canada are already free to import grains from whomever they want, including the US or "Eurasia".  Always have been.  In fact, Canadian food processors import from the US as market conditions allow.  Suggesting that without the single desk, these companies would suddenly change their buying behaviour, shows the CWBA doesn't understand that the CWB has no control over imports.

Second, to promote the idea that Canadian companies would any time soon import wheat from the fields around Chernobyl is so ludicrous and so farfetched it can serve no purpose but to inject fear.  Why pick Chernobyl?  The major wheat production and exporting area in Eurasia is the EU-27 (which does not include Ukraine, where Chernobyl is located).  They picked Chernobyl because they would like you to imagine eating bread made with radioactive, fungus-infested wheat; what could be worse? 

According to the CWBA, US millers already go for the cheapest wheat.  So, if wheat from Chernobyl is so cheap, why aren't the American millers importing it now?  They don't because they buy local North American wheat because of the quality and price.

The CWBA just doesn’t get it.  The consumer is driving the bus when it comes to food quality.  I suggest that the they attend the upcoming Canadian Food Summit 2012 in Toronto where, among other things, “Galen Weston will discuss how more Canadians are recognizing the importance of a healthy diet, and how Loblaws supermarket chain and other organizations are leading and responding to this trend.”  And how do you think they’re responding?  With high quality, nutritious foods; if they don’t, they can pack up their tent and go home.  Same goes for anyone supplying raw materials to them.

This idea of wheat coming from Chernobyl has no basis in reality and is only used as a scare tactic.  I just did an internet search and found not one news outlet used the CWBA release in a story; seems they saw right through it too. 

The CWBA should be ashamed.

The CWBA also believes the CWB gets premiums from domestic millers and that once the single desk is gone, millers will pay less.  So, if true, once the CWB is gone, Canadian wheat will be even cheaper, making it even more attractive to domestic buyers.  Importing wheat from half way across the world already doesn’t make sense and, according to the CWBA, it will only get less attractive.  (Tell me again how wheat from Chernobyl will compete into Canada…)

I noticed on the CWBA Facebook page there is link to the CWBA Chernobyl news release.  And, since you can leave comments, I did.  I explained in detail how the CWBA release is factually wrong and incredibly misguided.  I explained how wheat processing in Canada works now and showed how that wasn’t going to change because of the loss of the single desk.  My posts were there for less than half an hour before the CWBA removed them and banned me from making further posts.  So not only do they want to spread their form of warped propaganda, they don’t want their followers to know the real facts, or even enter into a reasonable debate or sharing of facts.  I find this disgraceful.

And then there's Andrew Dennis, farmer from Brookdale, MB, who, in a video on the CWBA website says:

"...even for urban people, this is going to be that 2 or 3 hundred dollars a month food price increase that could be pretty harmful if this moves corporate.”

Where do they get this stuff!?  DiscoveryFinance.com estimated the average monthly grocery bill in Canada is somewhere around $244 per person.  With the average family size at 2.5 persons, this means the average family spends around $600 per month.  Does he really think that the typical food bill will increase by 50% once the CWB is gone?  C’mon, really?!  This argument reminds me of a quote by Foghorn Leghorn (the rooster from the Bugs Bunny Show): “That’s mathematics, son!  You can argue with me but you can’t argue with figures!”

I hope this disingenuous approach doesn’t get worse – at the same time I fear it will.  Although more and more farmers and media appear to see right through these antics, there is no sign that it won’t increase along with the level of desperation.

I wonder if the CWBA, the NFU, the friends of the CWB, the eight remaining farmer-elected board members, the CWB media relations team, and members of the CWB-supporting media would ever agree to meet with other analysts and observers – like myself and others – and review all the “facts” being presented in an effort to finally put the misguided arguments behind us.

I’d do it in a flash.


  1. So let's see if I have them right... the price of wheat is going to go down, but the cost of the end product is going to increase catastrophically? Interesting logic.

    Oh right, I forgot, they're afraid that all of the big bad millers are going to take the opportunity to increase prices in the middle and screw both the producer and the end user. My bad.


  2. it will be interesting to see the reports that come out the offical opposition fact finding mission ie: Malcolm Allen ( MP Welland) Agriculture Critic
    Pat Martin (MP Winnipeg Centre) CWB Critic are having with invited farmers this week.
    I find it incredible that after all this time they are having fact finding meetings.The spin should be entertaining to say the least.

  3. We recently hauled some #1HRS wheat and netted just over 4.00/bu with the CWB pooled return outlook at 6.20/bu. for a total price. The day we hauled that, the same wheat landed in a Montana elevator was 7.99/bu. These court cases must be costing more than the CWB will admit.

  4. This post is awesome..i've been reading tons of crap posts from other blogs, but shows you have a more educated reader base.

  5. Keep up the good work John. It is about time these friends of the cwb got a dose of the truth. To bad these idoits don't want to hear the truth.
    Keith Ranger, Leask Sk

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