Farmers for economic freedom
Updates from the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network, Canadian Farmers for Justice and the Prairie Centre. Several of the items appearing here originally appeared in an email list operated by Dwayne Leslie at http://www.prairielinks.com.
web posted June 19, 2000
Insisting on a double standard
By Craig Docksteader
Over the next few weeks, the Canadian Wheat Board will be holding a number of meetings with organic growers of wheat and barley. According to the CWBs promotional literature, the purpose of the meetings is to "explore possible marketing options for organic wheat and barley".
So far, the CWB has put four options on the table for organic growers to consider. All of them consist of either having the CWB sell their product for them, or allowing growers to exercise their option to do a Producer Direct Sale, more commonly known as a "buyback". Not surprisingly, all of the options would give the CWB more control of the organic industry.
Ironically, the CWB appears to be refusing to consider what many organic producers have clearly stated -- they want less CWB control, not more. As John Husband, an organic farmer from Wawota, Saskatchewan puts it, "We dont want to sell to the Wheat Board, we want to sell to our customers. The Wheat Board is an impediment to us."
This kind of attitude is not uncommon amongst organic producers. The organic industry was built without the "help" of the CWB and many feel it is best left that way. Even the CWB recognizes that their involvement in the industry could slow the development of the industry by reducing the incentives for grain companies to establish organic elevators.
Nonetheless, the CWB insists that it has no option but to press ahead with some kind of increased control of the industry. Since organic wheat and barley already fall under the CWB Act, the question is HOW the sale of the grains will be administered, not IF. Even an exemption, (which would allow organic producers to market their product directly without the costly buyback) is supposedly out of the question because it would require a change in legislation.
Technically, what the CWB claims is true. All wheat and barley destined for export or human consumption cannot be exempted from the Act without an amendment. But practically, a copy of a CWB internal memo shows that it really doesnt matter. The CWB has complete latitude to provide growers with the equivalent of an exemption -- a no-cost export license.
These licenses are routinely provided to producers who reside outside the CWB designated area. They are also made available to growers of Pedigreed seed. Until recently, however, it was thought that the CWB could not provide the same no-cost licenses to producers who were inside the designated area.
But the internal memo (released by the CWB as part of their legal defense in one of their many court cases) tells a different story. Written on April 26, 1996, it documents the fact that producers in the Creston/Wynndel area of B.C. -- then a part of the CWB designated area -- were given the opportunity to export to the US without the required buyback. CWB employee Jim Thompson writes that "Margaret [Redmond, CWB General Counsel] explained the reason we allowed these growers the ability to export to the USA without a buyback [was] because it was isolated and without reasonable services afforded other growers in the designated area. In fact had there not been an [Alberta Wheat Pool] facility there originally it probably would not have been included in the designated area."
Since Bill C-4 amended the CWB Act, the Creston/Wynndel district is no longer a part of the CWB designated area. Nonetheless, the significance of what happened is clear: The CWB not only has the ability to provide no-cost export licenses to producers who farm within the designated area, but has done so in the past. Insisting that the same could not be done for organic producers is nonsense.
web posted June 12, 2000
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Bucking the trend
By Craig Docksteader
An upcoming Prairie Centre publication, entitled, Wheat Marketing Around the World, reports on the way wheat is marketed in 35 countries around the world. Following, is a partial listing of the reports findings which reveal a clear global trend toward less government control of wheat marketing. The two exceptions to this trend are Canada and Saudi Arabia
Source: Prairie Centre/Centre for Prairie Agriculture,
Inc., Wheat Marketing Around the World.
web posted June 5, 2000
They still don't get it
By Craig Docksteader
I recently attended one of the federal government's information sessions on the new endangered species law, which is currently making its way through the Parliamentary process. Intended to update stakeholders on the contents and implications of the legislation, it was with some interest that I listened to the presentations.
The story wasn't much different than what has been coming out of Ottawa.
The new law, called the Species at Risk Act (SARA) is designed to be fair and equitable, balancing the needs of endangered species with the rights of landowners. Participants were assured that every effort will be made to first protect species at risk through cooperative, voluntary methods. Only when these fail, will the federal government step in and regulate the use of private property and possibly levy fines against offenders.
The fines, penalties and mandatory regulation of private land are what the speaker called the "teeth" of the new law. These would be necessary in order to ensure compliance and prevent landowners from willfully and knowingly destroying endangered species.
After listening to the first presentation, there was an opportunity for those attending to ask questions. I had one.
"Are there any precedents of private landowners willfully destroying species at risk?" I asked.
No, the speaker was not aware of any.
"Then why is it necessary to include fines, penalties, and regulatory control of private property instead of taking a voluntary, cooperative approach?" I continued.
Answer? The Act has to be balanced. You can't have a law with no way to enforce it.
I wasn't satisfied with the answer, but decided to wait for another opportunity to press the issue further.
The next speaker talked about stewardship -- the preventative and voluntary efforts that can be taken to protect endangered species. "Voluntary stewardship and cooperative programs are the preferred approach to protecting critical habitat under SARA," the speaker stated. We were assured that tremendous progress is being made in the recovery of endangered species through cooperative programs.
When the time came, I was curious to know the answer to my next question.
"Is there any evidence that adequate protection of endangered species on private land could not be achieved exclusively through voluntary, cooperative stewardship and recovery programs?" I asked. No, this speaker was not aware of any.
I continued. "The U.S. experience has clearly demonstrated that applying punitive measures to private property has a negative impact on the protection of endangered species. It skews incentives and makes it undesirable for a property owner to find an endangered species on their property. If our objective is to protect species at risk, and punitive measures have proven to be counter productive, why would we include them in the Act?"
I was reassured that it's unlikely a landowner would ever be charged under the Act, and the legislation gives the courts room to be lenient with private landowners.
I could see they weren't getting it. I explained that whether or not the punitive measures are ever exercised won't matter. Their very existence will prompt some landowners to ensure that no endangered species is ever discovered on their land. If the objective is to protect endangered species, and the track record has clearly shown that on private land, voluntary, cooperative measures work and punitive measures do not, why would you go with what doesn't work?
I'm still waiting for a satisfactory answer.
But the truth is, there is no justification for taking a punitive approach to protecting species on private property. The law should be amended to restrict the application of fines and regulatory controls to Crown land only, while working cooperatively with landowners. The effectiveness of this approach could be evaluated when SARA is reviewed in five years time.
In the meantime, you'd have landowners on-side, and endangered species would be better protected. And isn't that what we're trying to accomplish?
web posted May 29, 2000
The value of freedom
By Craig Docksteader
Recently, the remains of an unknown soldier were returned to Canada, to be laid to rest at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. There the remains will lie inside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as a memorial for all those who gave their lives fighting for Canada.
It is perhaps the very fact that the identity of the soldier is unknown that gives the memorial such significance. Over the years, 116,000 Canadians have died in wars, 66,000 of these in World War I, where the unknown soldier died -- one of 20,000 who were never identified. In paying the ultimate price for our country, they sacrificed it all in obscurity and anonymity, often without even the dignity of a burial or the honor of a headstone. Across the country, the return of the Unknown Soldier has stirred the desire to ensure that those who fought on our behalf are never forgotten.
Tragically, however, in spite of all our efforts, our remembrance remains incomplete. For while we rush to preserve the memory of their deaths, we are quietly abandoning the cause for which they fought. Though we wish to honor the price they paid, we place a diminishing value on that which they purchased for us.
It is an irony that has not gone unnoticed by veterans themselves, such as Norman Baker, a World War II veteran from Saskatchewan. Joining the navy at the age of seventeen, Norman was plunged into basic training, where officers began to prepare the new recruits for what lay ahead of them.
They were lectured about why the world was at war once again, and why they should be prepared to fight for their country.
Their officers made it clear that they were going to war because something valuable was at stake -- freedom. It wasnt a theoretical discussion, it was real. They would need to be prepared to die in order to preserve their individual civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. If they failed, then tyranny was just around the corner.
The training impacted Norman. Before the age of twenty, he had settled the fact that freedom was worth dying for, and that individual freedom was the foundation of all freedom. Through the experience, he vowed to never be intimidated into silence or not speak out when someone or something attempted to deprive him or his fellow citizens of their individual liberties and fundamental freedoms.
Regrettably, over the next fifty-seven years, Norman would have no shortage of opportunities to follow through on his commitment. Political party after political party would rise to power in Canadian government and promote policies which warred against the very principles he risked his life for.
He would watch as many Canadians unwittingly allowed their government to whittle away their freedom by gradually introducing excessive levels of taxation, regulation and legislation. Increasingly, laws would be enacted which sacrificed individual freedom in the name of the common good. The judicial system would become distorted, eventually forming many of its judgments on the basis of collective rights rather than personal responsibility and individual freedom.
This year Norman celebrates his seventy-fourth birthday. At times he wonders aloud about the future of a country that will risk the lives of its young people in war, but then fail to preserve that which they won in times of peace.
Its a sobering thought that Canada has, at most, only a few short decades left to share with its World War veterans. If we are prepared to relinquish so much of what they fought for while they are still with us, what will happen when they are gone?
Perhaps we still have time to learn that the only thing worse than losing our freedom, is giving it away.
Craig Docksteader is Coordinator with the Prairie Centre/Centre for Prairie Agriculture, Inc. "Where Do We Go From Here" is a feature service of the Prairie Centre.
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