Saturday, December 23, 2006

Canadian sharecropping

And here I thought sharecropping was supposed to be a bad thing.

The story so far :
A timeline of the Cons attack on the Canadian Wheat Board, a Canadian monopoly which brings in $800 million to the prairies by controlling 20% of the global grain market.

July 27 Canadian Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl tells the press his government will not be bound by the Canadian Wheat Board Act which prohibits any changes to the marketing of grain that is not supported by the grain producers.

Oct 5 Strahl imposes a gag order on CWB to prevent directors and staff from defending its position as a single desk seller of Canadian wheat and barley, despite the fact this monopoly was formed to provide growers with the most stable price for their crop on the world market.
Strahl removes two of the five directors of the CWB for their support of the CWB and replaces them with two directors who are anti-CWB.

Oct 17 In the middle of a CWB election, Strahl removes 16,269 farmers - or 36% - from the voters' list. Farmers who did not sell grain through the CWB in the previous 15 months due to being the victims of flood or drought are struck off.

Oct 25 Bill C-300, a private members' bill to remove the CWB's single desk (monopoly), is put forward by the Chair of the Agricultural Committee. It is defeated.

Dec Strahl fires Adrian Measner, the 32 year veteran and president of the CWB because he insisted on representing the people who elected him instead of the federal government.

Dec 19 Strahl replaces Measner with Greg Arason, a former CWB CEO whose new condition of employment is not to speak out against the federal government.

Dec 21 Arason hands out $1000 bonuses to CWB employees.

So who doesn't like the CWB?

Well, there's Monsanto, who were blocked by the CWB from Canadian registration of RoundUp Ready Wheat.
And the US who have taken Canada to WTO court umpteen times over this monopoly which is exempt under the rules of NAFTA and have lost every time.
The Western Growers of Alberta who comprise 1% of the CWB membership.
Oh yeah, and free market fundamentalists like Harper and Tom Flanagan who don't like labour-based aggregates of any kind. And their deluded admirers.

Are the rest of us too stupid to protect the people who grow food from these assholes?
Because if we are, here's what will happen :

Some farmers will privately get a better price from another grain buyer, say - because they live close to the US border and so their transport costs would be lower than that of more northern farmers.
More farmers will switch to this new buyer.
CWB loses power and folds.
Individual farmers are pitted against each other and the price of wheat falls.
NAFTA says no new CWB can be launched.
Farmers have to sell out to whoever is big enough to survive the price drop, ie agribiz.
Farmers become sharecroppers on what was formerly their own land.

The big buzzword being bandied about by Strahl et al is "choice". The farmers should be allowed "choice".

Hey Stahl, they've already made a choice. They have chosen to retain their way of life and their farms by voting for a strong single marketing board. You are merely giving them the choice of becoming sharecroppers.

And Harper. You're a speck of flyshit due to be blown away in the next election. Try to spend your limited time with us not screwing with our food or our farmers.

For the real stuff : Economist and agrologist Wendy Holm.


Anonymous said...

i've been waiting for strahl to hit the headlines....there he's been in a low profile cabinet seat of great signifigance and there's no way he couldln't have been screwing things up. stockwelll's bodyguard really is the jesse ventura of canada.

Cathie from Canada said...

Right on -- great post.

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