Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

March 03, 2008 17:06 ET

Government of Canada Tables Amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act to Ensure Barley Marketing Freedom

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 3, 2008) - The Government of Canada today introduced amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act that would clear the way for barley marketing freedom and introduce a requirement respecting commercial dispute resolution. The announcement was made by the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

"This Government listens to farmers and we are working hard to deliver the barley marketing freedom Western Canadian barley producers are demanding," said Minister Ritz. "We are moving forward on every front to make that freedom a reality and this legislation is a huge step forward for Western Canadian farmers."

One of the proposed amendments would clarify that the Government has the authority to repeal a regulation that extends the Canadian Wheat Board's (CWB) monopoly over barley. This would allow farmers to sell their barley to any foreign or domestic buyer, including the CWB.

The proposed amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act also include a requirement respecting commercial dispute resolution. This would encourage producers and grain elevator companies to pursue the option of commercial arbitration, with the CWB, instead of resorting to the court system, which can be lengthy and costly.

The Government reiterated its commitment to barley marketing choice for Western Canadian farmers in the October 2007 Speech from the Throne. It is the Government's intention that marketing choice for Western Canada's barley growers - including an option to continue to sell to the CWB - will be reality by August 1st, 2008.

"Western Canadian farmers are the most qualified people to make their own marketing decisions and they have every right to expect that they have the same marketing freedom that producers in the rest of Canada take for granted," concluded Minister Ritz. "We have one message to send to opposition parties: Let's all stand behind our Western Canadian barley farmers and give them the marketing freedom they deserve. Otherwise, get out of the way."

BACKGROUNDER

Enabling Marketing Choice

A plebiscite among Western Canadian barley farmers held in February to March 2007 found that 62 percent voted in favour of removing the current CWB single desk marketing system for barley. In the October 16, 2007, Speech from the Throne, the Government committed to enacting marketing choice.

Part IV of the CWB Act deals with regulation of interprovincial and export trade in wheat. It provides that except as permitted under the regulations, no person other than the CWB shall engage in interprovincial or export trade of wheat or wheat products.

This legislation, if passed, would amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act to clarify the Government's authority to repeal a regulation made under section 47 that extends Part III or IV, or both Parts III and IV, of the CWB Act to barley or oats.

Requirement Respecting Commercial Dispute Resolution

The proposed amendment provides that the CWB shall not unreasonably withhold consent to submitting disputes to a commercial arbitrator agreed upon by the parties. In the event the parties cannot agree on an arbitrator, they would each choose one arbitrator. Together, these two arbitrators would choose a third arbitrator and the three arbitrators would jointly resolve the dispute.

The obligation to not unreasonably withhold consent means that the CWB would need to provide reasons for any refusals to arbitration of farmer or grain company concerns with its commercial behaviour. In addition, the amendments to the CWB Act would require implementation of arbitration decisions.

Arbitration would apply to issues that cannot be settled through normal negotiations and would be available to grain elevator companies (individually or as a group), primary producers (individually or as a group) and the CWB.

The arbitration could not apply to any decisions that the CWB is authorized to make under the CWB Act or regulations, or by order. Thus, only non-regulatory matters would be subject to dispute resolution. The CWB and the other party to the dispute will share the cost of the arbitration.


The Path Toward Marketing Choice for Western Barley

Marketing choice was a campaign commitment in the last election and it is a goal the Government re-committed to in the October 16, 2007 Speech from the Throne.

In February - March 2007, the Government held a plebiscite to consult Prairie producers on the marketing system they prefer for barley. Nearly 30,000 Western barley farmers voted, and 62 percent voted in favour of removing the current Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) single-desk marketing system for barley.

In response to these demands, amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Regulations to implement marketing choice for barley were made on June 7, 2007 and were to come into effect on August 1, 2007.

However, the amendments were blocked by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.

On January 29, 2008, Minister Ritz hosted a meeting with the CWB and representatives of the entire malting barley value chain to discuss real options for achieving marketing choice for barley. The meeting gave the CWB a clear mandate to move forward with barley marketing freedom.

Following the meeting, the CWB asked Minister Ritz to meet again to discuss the way forward. The meeting took place February 12, 2008. However, the CWB was not ready to discuss marketing choice. The CWB then publicly stated it would end all discussions on this topic with the Government.

The Government is using all possible avenues, including proceeding with amendments to the CWB Act to enable it to provide farmers with the marketing choice that they want and deserve.

The proposed legislation reconfirms that the Government is committed to moving on all possible fronts to deliver the change that many stakeholders in the barley industry urgently want - from producers, to grain handlers, to processors.

Contact Information

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Media Relations
    613-759-7972
    1-866-345-7972
    or
    The Office of the Honourable Gerry Ritz
    Margaux Stastny
    Press Secretary
    613-759-1059