Wheat Board Stuff

Editor’s note: this post has been updated as I have been advised some readers considered it hateful towards our esteemed Conservative friends in rural Saskatchewan. Prairie dog regrets the hurt caused by the original, insensitive version of this entry.

Well here’s a surprise: The agriculture minister says farmers don’t get to vote on Wheat Board demonopolization because they already voted. Snip:

While the law requires a vote when adding or subtracting commodities that the board handles, Ritz says changing the entire Wheat Board Act is at the discretion of Parliament.

Oh yeah?

Ritz says farmers endorsed an end to the monopoly when they voted in a majority Conservative government in last month’s election.

I guess so then. More here.

I’ll let experts worry about the Canadian Wheat Board though I’ll extend genuine sympathy to farmers who didn’t vote Conservative whose livelihoods are at risk as the end of the CWB’s monopoly looms. Sucks.

But there are bound to be some farmers who voted Tory who are complaining opposed to the Tory policy in this area. To those whiners respected citizens who certainly have a right to vote however they please, I offer a hearty ‘I don’t care’ my deep concern. What did you think would happen, anyway? You got your way. Everyone with a brain knew this would happen.

Because of rural Saskatchewan, the rest of us have to put up with nonsense like the end of the per-vote subsidy, multigazillion-dollar fighter planes, the repeal of the long-gun registry and forthcoming, sure-to-hurt-like-hell $4 billion spending cuts. Not to  mention ongoing loony-toons religious crap like Brad Trost’s defunding attacks on Planned Parenthood. we all get to eat healthy, delicious food. Thank you, rural Sask friends!

So suck it up like the rest of us, Tory hicksticks If rural Saskatchewan citizens who support the Conservatives and with whom I respectfully disagree on some issues pertaining to politics. You got your way. Live with it. are upset over the end of the CWB’s monopoly, we should all understand.

I hope that’s helpful.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

32 thoughts on “Wheat Board Stuff”

  1. We hayseed farmboys feed your useless belly, Stephen.
    Ever since the election, the P.Dog has turned into a vile, vicious monster.

  2. There, now it’s clear I’m only insulting Conservative farmers.

    An irony is that this notorious, flippant farmer-basher who so disappoints our much-loved, long-suffering Saylor actually suspects that the real political time bomb is in the suburbs and exurbs. I think that’s where the neo-fascist road warrior stuff will eventually come from. Badly-designed, heavily-sprawled suburbs are alienating and dehumanizing.

    Rural Saskatchewan is going to become a lot more politically progressive in the next couple of decades, mark my words. I have no doubt I will come to adore my hickstick homies. But they ought to stop voting Conservative.

    Well, voting for the current, so-called-but-not-really-conservative Conservatives, anyway.

  3. Hmm, revoltingly, I opened a can of mushrooms today and say that they were from China. I’ll be checking my stool for blood over the next 24 hours. My bread was from some farmer named ConAgra. I interpret Conservative ag policy as liquidating Canada’s farmboys and replacing them with ConAgra ag giants and Chinese imports.

  4. Oh come on Seanbot, we’ve been much more pleasant in the last, I dunno, two-three weeks. We did most of our full-on rabid frothing immediately after the election. And anyway, aside from the odd jab our gripes have substance. It’s not (just) empty mud-flinging. You’re not being fair.

    And you realize our “blargh” comes from the fact that we’re nice and we care about stuff, right? Yes, you do. I know you feel that prairie dog punches you in the head for your beliefs all the time. Well, welcome to the club. That’s the life experience of almost all our core writers, whose adult lives have been spent watching the slow rollback of social programs in this country. It’s been shitty and we’re crabby.

  5. I’m no conservative, but I am a rural dwelling Ag producer. How is marginalizing and insulting me with a hateful name like that the one you used to describe farmers any different than using the N word, or using derogatory language to describe gay people, for example? It amounts to hate speech, and it’s disappointing coming from a writer at a publication I used to admire.

    I’m done with this blog and I’m done with the Prairie Dog too, at least until you drag your yourself back to Winnipeg, where you clearly wish you were, anyway. We here in Dumbfuck Redneck Playground wont miss you.

  6. If the wheat board is such a great thing why aren’tcrop producers in Ontario and Quebec trying to get in.

    The thing you should really have outrage for is the continued support of supply management ( or cartel) for dairy. Keeps prices for consumers 4 to 5 times higher than needed.Oh yeah there are 20 ridings in rural Ontario and Quebec where supporting it makes a difference.

  7. By the way, why is it that in Ontario I can buy 3.8% M.F. homogenized organic milk but can’t get it in Saskatchewan? The best we can do is conventional 3.25% homogenized organic. What is that noise about?

    I’m not sure “hayseed” is any worse than “city-slicker” nor I’m sure if hayseed constitutes a hate crime, but if it does I;m sure someone will sue.

    The Ontario experience
    Key Points

    * Ontario farmers have the system they do because their farmer-elected board decided to take their organization in this direction. Prairie farmers have a farmer-controlled board of directors for their CWB. They have not taken the same direction, but could do so if they wanted.
    * Comparing Ontario and Western Canada is like comparing apples and oranges. Marketing wheat grown in Ontario and Western Canada requires two vastly different approaches. Farmers in Ontario grow about 1.65 million tonnes of mainly soft wheat that’s sold to domestic mills for use in cookies, pastries and biscuits. Western Canadian farmers grow about 16.8 million tonnes of mainly hard red spring wheat for bread and the CWB exports it to more than 70 countries.
    * The OWPMB now handles an insignificant volume of the wheat grown in Ontario. In 2003-04 it marketed only 18 per cent (about 400 000 tonnes) of the wheat grown in Ontario. Only a third (126 274 tonnes) of that amount was pooled.
    * Predictably, in the open market scenario, the OWPMB has had difficulty sourcing grain for some of the sales it has made. In one case, it even had to purchase wheat in order to meet a contract commitment.
    * Farmer-direct delivery to mills and markets like the United States has not materialized the way farmers envisioned under Ontario’s system. Millers themselves say they see little or no benefit dealing directly with farmers when they can instead source grain through the many merchants and brokers.


    Prior to the 2000 crop year, the Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board (OWPMB) was the sole marketer of wheat grown in Ontario. In this role, it acted on behalf of farmers to negotiate a price for sales of wheat to mills domestically and coordinated the export of a small amount of wheat from Ontario. Beginning in 2000, the farmer-controlled OWPMB board of directors decided to allow certain volumes of wheat to be marketed outside the single-desk (150 000 tonnes in 2000 and 2001; 200 000 tonnes in 2002). In 2003, the OWPMB board of directors decided to remove the cap on exemptions, effectively creating a fully open market. The OWPMB now competes with private traders in an open market for wheat.

  8. Dewdney: Once again I’ve shot the hostage instead of the kidnapper. Sorry about that, Chief. I’m not moving back to Winnipeg (been there, done that) so I’ll miss you. You had a lot of good comments.

    …Aw, come on. Stay! Isn’t it more fun to hang around so you can yell at me when I’m being a classist jackass (or more accurately, an obnoxious, over-the-top, overgeneralizing buffoon?) If not you, who? If not here, where? If not me, what?

    Besides, Dechene would miss you.

    Barb: See the first two sentences to Dewdney, above.

    Talbot: Thanks for that!

    Seanbot: And let me add, my belly is far from useless!

  9. A few points on the topics posters are taking up with Whitworth.

    1) You don’t feed Whitworth, Dewdney Lewvan and Seanbot. He does that himself by the sweat of his own brow, choosing to support your businesses in the process. I’ve heard countless farmers over the years bitching that people think their food comes from Safeway. Here’s the punchline: for the majority it does. That old trope “Don’t complain about a farmer when your mouth is full” is just about as dismissive as ‘hayseed’ in my opinion. I’ve never seen a farmer give me free food out of the goodness of his or her heart — they’re running a business after all. Try this one on for size, for a change: “Don’t complain about autoworkers when you’re bouncing along the field in your $80K pickup truck.” Furthermore, farmers are enormous recipients of public largesse in the form of income stability programs like “AgriStability”. Why these businesses? Why not RetailStability for all the family owned retailers that Wal Mart is driving out of business? What the heck makes farmers so special?

    2) Barb, since Statscan tells me that farmers are ON AVERAGE, in the 90th wealth percentile in Canada both in terms of income (averaged over 10 years, I believe) and total wealth accumulation, is Stephen’s class war a just one? Aren’t these folks actually a class or two above most of us? I know it’s exceedingly unlikely that I’ll accumulate a couple million dollars in assets by the end of my career like my farming relatives will. I have no complaint about that, really, since they’re also taking on more risk — but suggesting that this is somehow “classism” is a) a vast oversimplification and b) a holdover from this image most Canadians have of farmers that is flat-out inaccurate.

    3) Talbot, excellent information. I’ve seen most of it before, and you’re dead accurate. I’m personally agnostic about the whole debate. Haven’t grown wheat or barley commercially since I left the farm in ’98, so I don’t have any skin in the game, but it’s good to have the facts in front of you.

    4) Stephen — you need to lighten up, man. I get your frustration, but this can’t be healthy.

    And now a couple points of my own:

    1) The real affront to the free market in Canadian ag policy hasn’t even been talked about. Supply management has resulted in Canadian egg, chicken and dairy producers have become one gigantic closed-shop union. I don’t object to it, but the self-righteous calls for laissez-faire economics for everyone else is getting a bit tired. It costs the average Canadian family about $400 extra on their grocery bills a year — and since we’ve all been told repeatedly we’re now competing against the China price, it’s a system that no longer works in the globalized reality of today. But the Conservatives aren’t talking about it because the farmers who participate love it — since it’s a domestic only situation it can set the price above cost of production, unlike the CWB, who can only try to scratch a few cents a bushel here and there from certain customers who will pay a premium for assured supply.

    2) As for Stephen’s assertion that farmers who voted Tory should have expected this, I’m with him. Only a blind man or a fool would claim that this move is part of a hidden agenda.


  10. No suffering here, Stephen, long or short. Exasperation, though.
    Don’t go, Dewdney Lewvan; when the pd staff go overboard, they need voices of reason to bring them back, and you are one of those.
    Gordeaux: thanks for the response, but I’ll stand by my remark, because it’s not just farmers who are dismissed with scorn but also anyone who lives in a rural area, and not just in this post but in a welter of recent ones.

  11. holy christ. P. Dog, if you want to talk about this subject, get a pragmatic, non-political writer who will actually get off their butt and speak to an analyst or at least learn the basics of economics and wing it from there. This is supposed to be an ARTICLE not a wild city bus rant, right?

    Where to start? How about discussing the differences between how the CWB affects barley producers vs durum producers, large producers vs small producers, SK producers vs ON producers??

    I respect an honest analysis as much as I respect the “haysticks” who put food on my plate — wish you saw it the same way.

  12. @Barb — Over the years I’ve been on both sides of the equation. Written off as a hayseed when I left the farm and came to the city, then as an out of touch city slicker once I’d acclimatized to the city. Bottom line is there’s a lack of respect on both sides, but you seem to only be seeing one version of the story.

  13. Wow, I’m actually going to weigh in on this.

    Steve, you have to stop calling Conservatives dumb asses, which is really what you’re doing here; with a particular focus on rural Conservatives (aka the hayseeds and/or hicks).

    Now, understand, on a good number of items I think Conservatives are dumb asses. Hardcore conservative ideology drives me buggy. Having a discussion with the Tory base is like reading poetry to a plank.

    But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that telling people they’re stupid for thinking or voting a particular way will only encourage them to think that way all the more. In other words, telling someone they’re unreasonable will only make them more unreasonable. Go figure.

    So if you want to win this ideological battle you better mount up a bigger cork in the popgun. Otherwise it’s just ideological noise from both sides.

    As for the rural side of this, tossing out phrases like hick and hayseed even when they’re targeted is like walking into a minefield. Unless you ARE a hick or a hayseed, you don’t get to use those terms. I’m years removed from the family farm, but a rural critique can still get my back up.

    Finally, I agree about the Wheat Board. The Conservative Party has made no secret of its ideological view of the Wheat Board and voters across Western Canada threw their weight behind the Tories. So I can only assume they’re happy to see the Wheat Board go.

  14. I understand that the Prairie Dog positions itself as writing chiefly to urban (i.e. Regina) interests. Perhaps if it wishes to publish articles relating to agriculture – and I realize that the focus of this article is politics, tangentially related to agriculture – a writer like Gordeaux would nicely fit the bill.

  15. @pragmatic dog: Thanks for the comment. No, it’s just pretty much a wild bus rant. That’s my niche and we’re all stuck with it.

    @Dale: Thanks for the comment. I’m always refining my aim but I’ve also written off the 30 per cent or whatever who are always going to vote for guys like Brad Trost and Maurice Vellacott. They want to change their views to something civilized*, they can send me an apology for voting in the pro-life tax-cut support-the-troops party that cancelled public day care and thinks global warming is a socialist scheme.

    Those sticks are hick to stay. I don’t write for them although they’re welcome to read.

    *The real kind of civilized, like caring about and showing a commitment to improve society, not fake civilized like just being polite. Manners are often the enemy of truth.

  16. @18: Nothing wrong with that suggestion! Gordeaux’s great, though very, very busy. Talbot’s not too shabby either.

  17. #15 and 17: very good points, very well put.
    #16: I’ve been off the farm even longer than you have, Gordeaux, so I can empathize with your experience. I would point out, however, that pd has flouted its own rules for “enlightened discourse/entertaining squawking”, and needs to be called on it.

  18. Oh pshaw Barb. Lots of people find my squawking entertaining. And this comment thread is the epitome of enlightened discourse.

  19. Right Barb, like the time I was sitting in a meeting of wheat breeders and one of the top millers was the keynote speaker. He went off on a rant that basically boiled down to: “Food activists want to kill your business and make everyone a vegetarian. We should be putting them in prison as terrorists.”

    More and more as I listen to people from the farm community, I’m reminded of an article I read a few years ago in a back issue of Car and Driver magazine by a long-time contributing editor, Brock Yates. It was from the April, 1968 edition, and it was entitled “The Grosse Pointe Myopians” and it was a downright prescient description of how Detroit was in for a world of hurt because they were ignoring and laughing at customers who were making decisions like buying Datsuns and Volkswagens. Essentially what he said was that these folks were caught up in a self-referential bubble, went to the same schools, worked for the same three companies, lived in the same leafy suburbs, and socialized in the same clubs. It all combined to create a self-satisfied world view that continually reinforced itself.

    Today agriculture is in a very similar position. Everyone is a disciple, in some way or another, of Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution. They all attend ag schools that teach the same thing. They live and work in close proximity of each other and can go months — I’ve done it myself — without talking to someone who’s part of their world/industry. Oh, and try to talk to any of them about the folks buying organic food or on 100 mile diets and watch them get wound up. Forgetting, of course, that the very people they’re talking about are their customers.

    I repeat, there’s a total lack of understanding and respect out there, on both sides of this debate. But somehow the farm community gets a pass on being called on it, because they’re those nice farmers, I suppose.

    @Anonymous — my day job is actually writing about agriculture, so I can’t. Conflict of interest, don’t you know.

  20. I think the term “complaining” in your revised copy is still a little harsh. It should be replaced with “opposed to the Tory policy in this area” which sounds much more neutral and in keeping with the revised tone of the copy.

  21. @chrisinwinnipeg… but does that somehow equate a BETTER coach in your mind? That would then be, umm… discrimination. And not in the good “he made a discriminating choice” way. Subtle, but there nonetheless. Sort of like the ex girlfriend of mine that couldn’t comprehend that making statements like “religious people are happier and better people” meant that non-religious people were inferior in her worldview, whether she wanted to come right out and say it or not.

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