Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

CWB poll subject to interpretation

Whether you support a single marketing desk or a deregulated market for Prairie barley and wheat, the Canadian Wheat Board’s new survey of Prairie farmers offers a little something for everyone.

The poll, conducted by phone in the three Prairie provinces in March by the Gandalf Group and released Friday by the CWB, shows both a “strong support base” for the CWB, according to the board, and “strong and deep support for barley marketing freedom” according to pro-deregulation Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

The CWB, in its interpretation of the poll Friday, focused on a “wave of optimism” among Prairie grain farmers. The survey found 78 per cent expect their farms to pull a profit this year, marking the highest such percentage in the 11 years of CWB polls posing that question.

“After an extremely dark period for farm income, we can finally
see the potential for a brighter future with commodity prices that make it
possible to earn a living from the land,” CWB chair Larry Hill said in the board’s release.

But Hill, who farms at Swift Current, Sask., also said huge cost increases for inputs such as fuel and fertilizer remain a major concern to farmers, himself included.

The CWB said its poll shows the board’s views to be closer to farmers’ own compared to any other organization tested. All
things considered, 65 per cent of farmers support the CWB, with 42 per cent
saying their impression of the CWB has improved and 14 per cent indicating
that it has worsened, the board said.

Most farmers also wish that the federal government’s planned legislation to deregulate Prairie barley
marketing had never been introduced, with 60 per cent saying they would
have preferred the government dropped the issue after a July 2007
federal court ruling that stopped changes being made to barley marketing by
regulation, the CWB said.

In a dig at several pro-deregulation groups and maltsters that panned the new program, the board added that 73 per cent of barley growers surveyed believe the CWB’s CashPlus program for malting barley meets the needs of barley
growers.

Single-desk support down

“Support for single-desk marketing… has declined from last year’s 10-year high and
is now back to the average support level shown over the 11 years that the
survey has been fielded,” the board wrote.

For barley marketing, the board wrote, 40 per cent would choose the CWB single-desk system and 52 per cent the open market when choosing between only those two options for barley marketing. When “dual marketing” was added as a choice, 41 per cent said they would prefer that over an open market (26 per cent) or the single desk (27 per cent).

For wheat marketing, the board said, only 12 per cent would choose an open market. Support was instead evenly split between so-called “dual marketing” 45 per cent) or the CWB single desk (42 per cent). Choosing between just the single desk and open market, 57 per cent would choose the single desk for wheat, the CWB said.

“The CWB’s survey actually shows that nearly 70 per cent of Western Canadian farmers are demanding barley marketing freedom,” Ritz wrote in a release Friday. “In fact, (the survey states) that ‘dual marketing is the preference among farmers for barley marketing’ and ‘if they cannot have a dual market, most would prefer an open market to the single desk.'”

“There is no longer any doubt how strong and deep support for barley marketing freedom now runs among western Canadian farmers,” Ritz said in the release.

“The results of this survey are so clear the Liberals cannot even spin the numbers coming from their own insider to support their ideological crusade against Western Canadian barley farmers,” he said.

The Gandalf Group, a Toronto-based research firm, is operated by Jennifer Espey and David Herle, both of whom have previously consulted for the Liberal Party and for former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The company conducted a phone survey March 7-17, doing 1,300 interviews with CWB permit book holders in the three Prairie provinces. The total sample yields a margin of error of plus or minus 2.68, the company wrote.

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