Bill C-18 to undermine producers' right to decide own marketing structures
OTTAWA - The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and its members appreciate the complexity of the single desk issue and that there are opponents to the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), as well as supporters. However, the CFA and its members stand firm in their position that the farmers' voice in the issue needs to be formally respected and represented and government should not move forward without proper consultation.
"The CFA has concerns with the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act - Bill C-18 - announced this week. The CFA and its members have always held that farmers, not government, hold the authority in decisions affecting their marketing structures. The Canadian Wheat Board Act reiterates this position, giving farmers the authority to determine the CWB's marketing mandate and requires the government to hold a plebiscite before making major changes. The CFA was disappointed when the government did not honour the existing CWB Act by refusing to hold a farmer plebiscite - thus refusing farmers a direct voice in the matter - before initiating changes to the CWB," said Ron Bonnett, CFA President.
"We need to retain the CWB as a farmers' organization. Farmers pay for the CWB, they run it and they alone should decide what happens to it. Under the current Act, farmers elect their Directors through a democratic process. Under Bill C-18, this will be eliminated. There will no longer be any direct farmer involvement. This is unacceptable," said Humphrey Banack, CFA Vice-President and President of Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (Alberta).
"A further concern is the Bill will not follow due process; It will not be debated and studied by the House of Commons Committee on Agriculture. This government has chosen to eliminate that step. CFA and its members urge this step be reinstated in order to ensure this Bill is given full debate, allowing farmers a chance to speak to the issue at Committee. To date, the majority of affected farmers have not been consulted and there has been no meaningful engagement with farmers," said Bonnett.
"Regardless of your stance on the CWB, the process to date and proposed plans forward is of extreme concern to the CFA and its members and sets a dangerous precedent," said Christian Lacasse, CFA Vice-President and President of Union des Producteurs Agricoles (Québec).
"With no plebiscite held as outlined in the Act, no chance for farmers to speak before the House of Commons Committee on Agriculture and with outlined plans to eliminate the farmer elected board completely, this is a complete affront to farmers' democratic rights - rights that are currently protected under the Act and should be respected," Lacasse maintained.
In summary, the CFA recommends the following with respect to Bill C-18:
- Ensure Bill C-18 is given full debate - allowing for farmer-constituent voices to be heard through their respective Members of Parliament
- Ensure Bill C-18 goes to the House of Commons Committee on Agriculture and that all interested farmer groups may present and make their voices heard - whether in Ottawa or Western Canada
- Ensure that all interested farmers and farm organizations be involved in advising on the transition process moving forward to ensure a strong and viable CWB for those farmers that choose to market their grain collectively
The CFA and its members would like to see all affected farmers engaged as key consultative partners on this issue and will continue to insist farmers be properly included in decisions affecting their livelihoods and businesses.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is the country's largest farmers' organization, representing provincial general farm organizations as well as national and interprovincial commodity organizations from every province - over 200,000 Canadian farmers and farm families.