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Western farmers welcome grain marketing freedom

It has been a long time coming, but western grain farmers now have the freedom to market their own grain and barley.
The federal government’s Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act last week received royal assent.
“In my own family, three generations have worked towards this day,” said Fort Macleod producer Stephen Vandervalk, who is president of the Grain Growers of Canada. “Our history makes us strong. But today’s agriculture industry has come a long way. Thanks to progress in technology and science, I farm and market my crops differently than my grandfather did in the past.”
Western wheat and barley farmers now have the freedom to forward contract for the delivery of wheat and barley to the Canadian Wheat Board or the buyer of their choice for delivery after August 1, 2012.
Macleod MP Ted Menzies said with the passing of the act, the first steps are in place to remove the monopoly, unleashing the true economic potential of the prairie grain sector.
“Western Canadian wheat and barley farmers have waited decades for this historic day,” said Menzies, who is minister of state for finance. “They are now free to make their own marketing choices, in fact some farmers signed contracts for their new crop today.”
The Canadian Wheat Board will be a voluntary marketing option for farmers, supported by the government as it transitions to a privately owned entity.
Vandervalk pointed out he uses a GPS on his tractor to save on input costs related to fertilizer and seed and to farm in a more environmentally sustainable way.
“And from the seat of my tractor, I already use my blackberry to lock in prices for canola, peas, lentils, oats and flax,” Vandervalk added. “So using today’s technology to market my wheat makes sense to me. With this bill becoming law today, I will now be able to use my BlackBerry to choose where I sell my first load of wheat.”
Vandervalk said market development commissions need to be set up, along with a wheat council of Canada that is similar to those in other industries such as pulse and canola.
Research issues must also be addressed.
“Industry and farmers, including the Canadian Wheat Board’s own staff, can now forge ahead with their business plans,” Vandervalk said. “Road blocks to value added investment are gone. Western agri‚Äźindustry has already been gearing up with a pasta plant in Saskatchewan and malt barley storage expansion in Alberta. These are just two examples. We look forward to more exciting developments in the coming months.”
Vandervalk said the act gives Western farmers the chance to branch into different kinds of wheat specialty markets.
“As a young farmer, I am personally looking forward to the freedom to choose, where I sell my first load of wheat,” Vandervalk said.
CWB president Ian White said his organization has been preparing for the change and has developed pool and cash programs for the next crop year.
“Amid all the change, one thing remains the same — the CWB will market farmers’ grain,” White said. “We will work to achieve the best prices for farmers and superior service for customers in Canada and around the world.”

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