A RURAL VOICE
The last few months have been troubling for me. The CWB (Canadian Wheat Board) single desk is on the verge of extinction and so too, quite possibly, the future of shortline railways, producer car groups and farmer owned inland grain terminals.
I could go on, but by now you likely understand why I’m feeling blue. There is at least one more troubling thing to mention: those responsible for this destruction will not answer a letter, phone call or email. We get no responses to questions about why these changes were made and how groups are supposed to cope in this new private environment. The federal Minister of Agriculture, for example, sent me a letter recently in response to a position paper that our shortline, the Battle River Railway, had produced regarding our concerns about the future of producer cars.
He told me that his federal committee of experts responsible for recommendations about producer cars had taken time out of their busy schedules to review this issue. “Taken time out of their busy schedules?” This is an issue that will either make or break producer car groups and shortlines.
The current federal government has blind faith in the marketplace. They believe that the very same large grain accumulation companies that have been trying to put smaller grain companies and producer car loaders out of business for 100 years will now begin embracing these entities. Small players have to get their grain involved in a sale. With the single desk of the Canadian Wheat Board gone, shortlines and producer car groups will be obliged to sell their grain to one of the big grain players. There have been no producer car loadings of non-board grains since 1992. I wonder what has changed that will cause those numbers to skyrocket.
The minister suggests that he will monitor the progress of the system to safeguard producer car shipper’s interests. In other words, when we have all gone broke because big grain would not give us realistic bids for our grain and the services we provide, he will be able to observe that the system did not work. It might be a bit late by then. Farmers have millions of dollars invested in producer car groups and shortlines. I wonder what the federal Minister of Agriculture has invested.
Eshpeter and his wife farm near Camrose, Alta. He is passionate about maintaining a vibrant rural landscape for people and all neighbourhood creatures.