One year since end of Canadian Wheat Board monopoly
It has been one year since the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly ended allowing western farmers to market wheat and barley on their own.
The change came after Ottawa passed a law allowing producers to sell their grain to whatever company they wanted, instead of going through the board.
Federal Agriculture Minster Gerry Ritz is one of the members of parliament who voted to strip the board's control. Thursday he held a media conference in at a farm in Pense, Sask. to mark the anniversary. For more than 70 years, farmers in the prairies had to sell their grains to the board, which in turn would export it to foreign markets.
The end of the monopoly was met with some controversy, with those in favour of the board arguing farmers were protected from selling at a loss when the markets were down.
Other critics believe the end of the wheat board will cause uncertainty in the market, but Ritz said farmers can now be more competitive.
"Overall, logistics have been good," said Ritz. "We're seeing market share in premium markets going up. We've had no problem at all when we're talking free trade agreements with other countries, they welcome the opportunity to buy more Canadian wheat.
Another concern is that many private buyers don't pay premiums for the quality of crop like the wheat board used to, and some people worry this could decrease the quality of crops produced.
Ritz said at the Thursday there is no evidence to show this.
"Always a financial incentive," he said. "I mean there are always markets like Japan that pay extra for that premium, like I said our markets went up by 25 per cent in Japan. China's looking for a certain amount of quality to mix with their lesser quality so they can actually make bread out of it."
Last year Prime Minister Stephen Harper celebrated the end of the Wheat Board's monopoly on a grain farm in Kindersley, Sask. saying the change would allow the sector to evolve and reach its full potential.
In 2012, farms brought in the largest crop in three years and record farm income.
"It's not because of the Wheat Board is gone or anything, it's just the way the market is doing it," said Ed Bespalko who farms near Yorkton. "If the Wheat Board was in place right now, they would be right in there with those prices."
Bespalko said he's hardly noticed a change since the end of the board's monopoly — prices are high and grain companies are battling it out.
The Canadian Wheat Board is still operating but now competes in the open market.