Good vibes shared by CWB and barley growers – somebody pinch me!
Here was something you don’t see everyday — at least not in the last 70 years or so….the president of the CWB (Canadian Wheat Board, for those out of date), and three leaders of the Western Barley Growers Association (WBGA), all in the same room, all wearing CWB caps and everyone on friendly terms. It was almost a life changing moment.
But that was the scene Thursday afternoon at the WBGA annual conference in Calgary. Ian White, president and CEO of the CWB had just finished his presentation to producers and industry leaders, and Brian Otto of Warner, Alta. outgoing WBGA president, Doug Robertson of Carstairs, WBGA vice-president and Doug McBain, of Cremona, Alta., a director were all wearing CWB caps and applauding White’s remarks.
At previous conferences, I have seen these three farmers clap after which ever CWB representative gave a presentation, but I suspect then it was more about “polite applause”, or clapping because they were glad the presentation was over, not necessarily because they agreed with the message.
In fact I have talked to all three of these barley growers at different times over the years and they’d get so riled talking about “the board” and its monopoly for grain marketing, I was afraid they might have aneurisms. But not this year.
That’s because White, in a very clear presentation told farmers in essence “it is a new era, and the new CWB is here to work with all producers in an open market, to help them achieve the best value for their crops.”
He talked about price pooling. He talked about forwarding pricing and futures market marketing opportunities. He talked about working with all the grain companies to secure handling facilities. He talked about malt barley production contracts. He talked about good cash flow. He talked about flexible delivery. He talked about using the strength and marketing expertise the CWB has developed over more than seven decades so the CWB can stand as a viable marketing option for producers looking to market their crops. He talked about finding ways to connect with all farmers — both the old board and non-board supporters — to earn their trust in this new marketing era. What one hell of a good message.
Unless White is growing something in his Winnipeg backyard that isn’t barley, it appeared the CWB president was of sound and sober mind. It was a message of working co-operatively with producers and other industry players in a new marketing era.
Along with being impressed with his presentation, the other thought that ran through my mind, is why farmers couldn’t have heard this message from The Canadian Wheat Board for the past year. The writing was on the wall after the May 20, 2011 election that the government planned to change the CWB to an open market system. Instead, since last May, there has been all this grinding and grief, and fear mongering and whining that the world would come to an end if the Canadian Wheat Board did not have it’s single desk, marketing monopoly.
White hasn’t changed. He has been president of the CWB since 2008. What did change, after new legislation was passed, was the old 15-member board of directors was replaced with a new five-member board. What did change was the will on behalf of the board to find ways to make an open market system work.
I didn’t hear White say all the long-time Canadian Wheat Board supporters were now hooped, that they’d be stranded now with a new CWB in place. Quite the opposite. The new CWB would do it’s best to provide a wide range of marketing opportunities for all producers. The new CWB would market wheat and barley, but may also move into other commodities as well. And why stop at the Manitoba border— they could market crops across Canada.
It was a very optimistic and progressive message in a very optimistic and progressive meeting. Yes, there are changes ahead, and still plenty of unknowns of exactly how everything will work, but overall it WILL work and there will be new opportunities for all producers.
Abraham Lincoln said “most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be” and I am not sure who said “where there is a will there is a way”, but both those old quotes seem to aptly apply here.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at email@example.com
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