CWB Transition Group Close To Final Recommendations

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The working group tasked with addressing issues surrounding the Canadian Wheat Board's transition away from a single desk is finalizing its advice for the federal agriculture minister.

"We're certainly very close to our final recommendations now," says Richard Phillips, Executive Director of the Grain Growers of Canada. The Grain Growers are a member of the transition group.

"Our recommendations are not on the design or structure of the Canadian Wheat Board, but on the issues coming out of it, whether it's shortline rail, or market access at ports for some of the smaller companies. How is research going to be funded? How do we transition the Western Grains Research Foundation? Those are the sorts of issues we've been looking at," he explains.

The working group met with nine prairie farm groups, including Keystone Agricultural Producers.

"We've thrown forward lots of concrete ideas, and some of the groups like Keystone, the Wheat Growers and Barley Growers put some real meat on the bone in their suggestions," says Phillips. "There was also real unanimity within the farm groups in wanting to continue to support the Canadian International Grains Institute and the research being done through the Western Grains Research Foundation. Those are issues that I think every group identified as priorities."

He says there was a broader range of opinions when it came to the use of producer cars.

"Producer cars are under the Canadian Grain Commission...so unless the Grain Commission is changed, they will continue, but people want to know if they will continue to be a real alternative or just a paper tiger. Certainly we got a number of recommendations from producer car shippers and shortline railways, including Boundary Trails Rail out of Manitoba," says Phillips.

Meanwhile, the future of the CWB came up several times during the first week back in session in the House of Commons. NDP MPs say they will use every parliamentary procedure possible to prevent the government's legislation from passing in time to come into effect next summer.

"I don't think there's much that will be done in parliament but we'll see a lot of smoke and noise. it will be interesting when the legislation gets to committee whether the opposition comes forward with some constructive suggestions and amendments. That's always interesting because sometimes they can make the government take a second look at that time," he says. "We'll have to see if the opposition actually goes down that pro-active road or whether they just continue to oppose it completely...if farmers want to see some middle ground on this, they should be talking to both the government and the opposition."