WINNIPEG - Beginning a new era for Western Canadian agriculture, the Canadian Wheat Board unveiled a revamped look and business plan on Tuesday at its Winnipeg headquarters on the last day of its monopoly on wheat, durum and barley sales in the western provinces.
"We're ready for this new environment," Ian White, CWB president and CEO, told reporters. "We're ready to face this future, and we do expect to be successful."
The day before the beginning of a new crop year, White and other CWB officials touted the greater freedom they said farmers will enjoy without the board's monopoly of the past 70-plus years, following legislative changes made by the federal Conservative government last year. Displaying a new logo for the organization, they also announced a partnership with Louis Dreyfus Canada Ltd. to handle grain from producers who want to market through CWB pools.
"We expect a very substantial sign-up," White said. "We had said that we think somewhere in the range of 30% to 40% of the wheat crops would be signed to the CWB pools, and we certainly still expect that sort of tonnage."
Shortly after the announcement, though, a large group of farmers and other protesters rallied against the changes outside the CWB's offices.
Farmer Ian Robson said the Tories' move to kill the CWB's single-desk marketing system is turning the industry "into a casino".
"We'll have to do whatever we can to survive, and it's going to be a lot more difficult," he said.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in Saskatoon that the CWB's shift gives farmers "the same freedom to make business decisions that regular businesses take for granted," and to get prices they want.
"Market freedom means farmers can explore opportunities to add value to their wheat and barley," Ritz said, "without having to buy their own crop back before it left the bin."
-- With files from Lisa Mrazek