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Grain farmers charged with defying board welcome news of vote

LETHBRIDGE, Alberta - Alberta grain farmers who were charged a decade ago with defying the Canadian Wheat Board welcomed news that barley farmers will get to vote on the future of the board's monopoly.

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LETHBRIDGE, Alberta - Alberta grain farmers who were charged a decade ago with defying the Canadian Wheat Board welcomed news that barley farmers will get to vote on the future of the board's monopoly.

"We all think the walls are coming down," says Ike Lanier, who took part in a rally in Lethbridge, Alberta, Oct. 31 marking the 10-year anniversary of their protest. "It will not be long before we have our (grain marketing) freedom."

Lanier, 76, was among 13 farmers who were charged in 1996 when they illegally moved their product south of the border without a Wheat Board permit.

He spent a day in jail before opting to pay a fine. Others spent up to six months behind bars because they refused to pay the $1,000 to $7,500 fines imposed on them.

Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl, acting on a task force report recommending a voluntary board, told a Commons committee in Ottawa Oct. 31 that barley farmers will vote in a plebiscite on the future of the board's monopoly next year.

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Farmer Jim Ness says he is confident wheat farmers also will get marketing freedom, as recommended in the task force report.

"The earthquake can't come soon enough for this cowboy," says Ness, who was among those charged in 1996. "When soon we get our (grain marketing) freedom, we may find it in our hearts to forgive the Liberals who incarcerated us."

- Canadian Press

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