SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA — Canada Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced on Nov. 7 the formation of the Crop Logistics Working Group in an address to the Inland Terminal Association of Canada (ITAC). Ritz also took the opportunity to reiterate the importance of marketing freedom to Western Canadian grain farmers and the economy.

"The economy is the top priority of the Harper Government, in which agriculture plays a vital and growing role," said Ritz. "We want to make sure the agriculture sector is well positioned to play a constructive role as the facilitation process gets under way."

The Crop Logistics Working Group will be a forum for the agriculture value chain to consider the performance of the supply chain for all crops and to exchange views and information on issues arising from the transition to marketing freedom. This forum will support the facilitation process following from the Rail Freight Service Review. The facilitation process will bring together shippers, railways and other stakeholders to develop a template service agreement and a streamlined commercial dispute resolution process.

"ITAC grain handling facilities were created by farmers through their own initiative, innovation and capital, making grain handling on the prairies more competitive, reliable and cost-effective," said Ritz. "This is exactly the kind of entrepreneurial energy that farmers are known for and will use when making their own marketing decisions about their wheat and barley."

Once it receives Royal Assent, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act will end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board and give Western Canadian farmers the ability to sell their wheat, durum and barley as they choose, whether that's voluntarily through the Canadian Wheat Board or individually on the open market, Ritz said.

"An open grain market will attract investment, encourage innovation, create value-added jobs, and build a stronger economy, not only here in on the prairies, but right across the country," said Ritz. "Working with Western Canadian grain farmers, their organizations and provincial partners, we are working to ensure an orderly transition to market freedom which includes a viable, voluntary pooling entity, as part of an open and competitive Canadian grain market."