By Shaun Haney
Did you know that the Canadian Wheat Board Elections are winding down in the next week. I really like elections because they tend to provide debate and strong conflictive view points on many different issues. The current CWB election is not conflictive, confrontational or interesting at all.
There are no candidates talking about the need to have a marketing choice which is keeping even the most pro-single desk vocals like NFU – Stewart Wells quiet. If you are not getting Mr. Wells fired up about the necessity of the single desk other candidates are not doing their job. There is no real debate or discussion happening. I asked a few farmers in my region if they had been contacted by any of the candidates. They said no. My conclusion was that maybe they were not very large farmers and therefore weren’t on the candidates radar screen. So I checked with a couple of the largest farmers in my area and they also stated that no one had contacted them. What’s up with that?
It would appear that high school kids running for student council President, campaign harder than this. If it was not for publications like Grainews or the Western Producer or the little signs on the side of the road, would you even have a clue who was running in your region. This is not an article trying to convince you to get out and vote and let your voice be heard in this election. I think that this apathy is somewhat of a reflection of people’s attitude towards the CWB issues and where wheat is beginning to be positioned in Western Canada.
I have always felt that the CWB single desk versus choice discussion is one that lacks appeal for many farmers. It’s a debate that has entrenched sides that feel so strongly about their position, there is no compromise or solution except surrender by the other side. For the other 80% of farmers (the moderates) I just don’t think they care enough to get involved anymore. Instead of spending their time fighting the CWB or defending the CWB, they focus on how to make money within the current wheat marketing system. More and more I am seeing this happen. I think the group of modeartes (silent majority) is getting bigger and the super passionate fringe edges are getting more polarized. It does sound very similar to US politics with the introduction of the Tea Party and other extreme leftists. I think the moderates have concluded that they are not willing to commit any emotional energy to this issue at all. They are hedging their bets that the status quo will remain in place and attention to personal farm survivability takes precedent.
Another point that I take from this election is that due to the growing significance of canola, special crops and soybeans in many prairie rotations, wheat is beginning to lose its’s importance to many farms. These other crops are the most profitable crops on the farm while wheat, although strongly priced is becoming less of a percentage contributor to net income. For some farmers like the red river valley the introduction of fusarium has forced farmers to focus on non-cereal crop types. A great way to gain a visual on where the attention is, is to attend CropWeek in Saskatoon in January. The hype around pulse days is much different than the CWB day at the end of the week. Wheat is still a very important crop but farmers have a much more diverse set of growing options in front of them.
Wheat is always going to be apart of Western Canadian rotations as a profitable crop and I believe that the moderates have decided to focus on their own farms and not get wrapped up in a debate that really leads to nowhere but a battle of attrition and frustration for both sides. The current interest level in the CWB elections would prove that to be true whether you are pro single desk or a pro-dual marketer. Happy voting!!!