Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Canada has a right wing?...

Those wacky Canadians are having a quite the set-to over the Canadian Wheat Board. For all of you non-wheat growers, the CWB is one of those horrible state trading enterprises (STE) that we point to in defense of our subsidies.

Anyhoo, it seems the conservative government wants to do away with its monopoly (or more accurately, monopsony) powers, which doesn't sit well with old socialists in Saskatchewan especially. Also, some Canadian farmers want to be able to sell their grain elsewhere - namely the US.

It was a "damn the Canadian Wheat Board" (CWB) vote yesterday as members elected directors. The results resolved little on the dispute with the federal government over the board's monopoly. Full speed ahead.

The pro-monopoly forces remain clinging to power, so we can only expect the foot-dragging and defiance to continue. [More]

What is interesting about this political battle is the effort by the government to dismantle a popular farmer monopoly. Although some larger farms want to have selling options, the vast majority of small farms apparently like the "single desk" powers of the CWB.

Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl is refusing to back down on a Tory campaign promise to end the Canadian Wheat Board's marketing monopoly even though farmers rejected that plan in the board's director elections.

Despite losing his bid to control the 15-member board with directors who share his vision for the Winnipeg-based agency, Strahl said he will still hold a plebiscite on opening up barley marketing. [More]

It is startling to see efforts to end this type of control in a country with such a strong socialist history. Canadian farmers could end up with few subsidies and no STE, joining Argentine, NZ, and other major ag producers as truly free-market international players.

Meanwhile, here in the land of the free, protectionism has wide bipartisan support. Besides, it is becoming apparent that grain producers would just as soon ride the wave of mandated markets for biofuels and skip exports altogether. This indifference has finally caught the attention of domestic livestock producers, who are much more invested in free trade, and who don't receive LDP's.

We're betting the farm on biofuel mandates. This should turn out OK unless some major new oil fields are discovered allowing oil to drop below $40 or so.

Like the soon-to-be formerly frozen Arctic. Or the Gulf of Mexico. Or a warmed up Siberia.

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