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Published July 31, 2012, 10:05 AM

Canadian Wheat Board monopoly ends

Change is on the horizon for farmers as the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on western wheat and barley sales draws to an end.

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — Change is on the horizon for farmers as the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on western wheat and barley sales draws to an end.

The federal government passed a law late last year to allow western farmers to sell their grain to whomever they choose.

That change will kick in Aug. 1 with the new crop year.

Canada’s Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz appeared in Saskatoon July 31 to talk about what the government says is marketing freedom for the western Canadian grain industry.

The wheat board also will hold a news conference in Winnipeg to mark the official beginning of its new business model.

Wheat and barley farmers in Western Canada have had to sell their grain through the board since the 1940s. The change has the support of many farm groups, which say producers can often get better prices on the open market.

But supporters of the monopoly say the open market will leave farmers at the mercy of railways and big, international grain companies. They argue the monopoly prevented producers from competing against each other for sales.

The move has also led to several court battles.

Board supporters are asking the Supreme Court for leave to appeal a lower court ruling on the way the Harper government stripped the agency of its marketing monopoly. They argue the federal government didn’t follow a law that required it to let grain farmers vote on the future of the wheat board.

A Federal Court judge ruled in favor of those who wanted such a vote. But that ruling was overturned in the government’s favor by the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled that Ottawa did not break the law. The Appeal Court said there is nothing to prevent the government from changing its own law in Parliament.

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