The National Citizens' Coalition are fighting for the right to sell their grain. Currently they must sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board.
Leya Russell/the Gauntlet

Separating the wheat from the Board

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The National Citizens' Coalition is going after the Canadian Wheat Board with pitchforks and torches in a new multimedia campaign.

The NCC is relying on an advertising campaign with newspaper, radio spots, billboards and e-mail to get its message out about ending the CWB's monopoly on wheat.

NCC communication manager Kylie-Anne Doerner explained the NCC believes the CWB limits freedom of choice and farmers should not face jailtime for selling their crops to the customer of their choice.

"In the 21st century it should not be a crime to market your own crops," said Doerner. "Opening up the marketing system would allow Canadian farmers to receive prices closer to those of the world market."

Doerner was quick to add that the new campaign was in reaction to the federal government losing the battle to eliminate the CWB's single-desk monopoly on barley farming in the Federal Court of Appeal.

"The NCC has been fighting to restore democracy and freedom to western farmers for years," said Doerner. "But with the recent court ruling in response to barley farmers having a dual marketing system, the NCC believed it was time to, once again, bring this campaign to the forefront."

The NCC felt the CWB is not a democratic system because it prosecutes farmers who refuse to sell their products to the board.

"Farmers should not face jailtime for selling their crops

to the customer of their choice, nor should the Wheat Board be permitted to use the pool money to fight those who want that freedom," said Doerner.

CWB spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry was quick to defend the CWB from the criticisms.

"The CWB is controlled by prairie farmers who democratically elect ten representatives to its 15-member governing board," said Fitzhenry. "Eight of these 10 farmers [are] in favour of single desk marketing."

Fitzhenry noted the CWB is beneficial to farmers because the board ensures the farmers have a strong voice in dealing with the grain industry and get a decent return on their product.

"Empowering farmers is even more important today than it ever was, given the even greater strength and consolidation of

the grain companies-with four large companies controlling over 75 per cent of global wheat sales," noted Fitzhenry.

Fitzhenry explained farmers have to sell their products to the CWB because its single desk market nature can only provide benefits if it is a monopoly. She noted there is a legal process the Western farmers can follow to change the law and create an open market in a valid referendum, but until that happens, farmers are obliged to follow the current law.

National Farmers' Union executive secretary Terry Pugh seconded Fitzhenry's statements about the importance of the CWB.

"The National Farmers' Union supports the Canadian Wheat Board because we believe farmers need to make a decent living from the marketplace, not from poorly-designed government subsidy programs," said Pugh.

"Farmers realized they needed to have a big player that acted in their interests, not against their interests and they pressured the federal government to implement the Canadian Wheat Board in the '20s."

Pugh noted the farmers were prosecuted because they failed to obtain necessary export certificates and tried to run the border, not because they did not sell to CWB.

"These guys who claim they can get a better price outside the board are ironically those who are most likely to undersell their colleagues," said Pugh. "The National

Citizens Coalition is not a

grassroots coalition of ordinary citizens, but a front organization for large corporations that advocates policies that are in the interests

of multinational agri-business."