WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA — The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) on Oct. 17 outlined six key business requirements critical to the success of any potential new organization that might be created if Prairie farmers' current wheat-marketing structure is disbanded by the federal government.

"After extensive work by the CWB to analyze all possible alternatives for farmers, we identified concrete requirements for any new entity to succeed — and the federal government needs to address them," said Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB's farmer-controlled board of directors.

"This information was shared with Minister Ritz in July, but we continue to be stymied by the government's inability to provide answers — despite its stated objective for a 'strong and viable' grain-marketing entity in an open market. While the Minister attempts to paint CWB directors as being uncooperative, we have in fact been taking these issues very seriously, without any meaningful response from government regarding these basic requirements."

The CWB board of directors had invited Minister Ritz to attend its meeting in Winnipeg last week for detailed discussions, but he was unable to attend. Oberg said the offer for the minister to meet with the full board remains open.

"Legislation will be introduced this week that will destroy the CWB," he said. "Meanwhile, any chance for a successor organization is being crippled by this government's reckless approach. We call on the minister to live up to his promise to broadly consult with farmers — not just with his hand-selected group, but also among the tens of thousands of producers who have clearly stated their desire to retain the CWB single-desk."

Sixty-two percent of western Canadian farmers voted to retain the single desk for wheat in a CWB plebiscite conducted over the summer. Fifty-one percent voted to retain it for barley marketing.

Oberg said consultations about the new legislation — and associated business requirements — should involve federal standing committee hearings held in Western Canada. He also urged the Minister to resist an anti-democratic process that would limit consultation and debate.

The six requirements were identified after extensive analysis by CWB staff and external business consultants KPMG. They were shared with government in response to the Minister's request for the CWB's views on implications of the government's policy decision and what elements would be needed to establish a new organization. The Minister had also asked for assessment of costs to government of winding up the current CWB, which were also shared during the summer. In addition to outlining key requirements, the CWB expressed concerns to the Minister about the extremely short timeframe to establish a new entity, which seriously threatens its ability to compete.

"The government has provided no framework for a path forward," Oberg said. "To run a business, you must have certainty about your capital and equity base, your means of borrowing money and managing risk, your ownership structure, your access to grain-handling terminals and the regulations that would be in place. None of this has been forthcoming."