My Side of the Fence

Where Did Our Assets Go?

  • Peter de Jong, Author
  • Dairy Farmer, Southeastern Manitoba

When the previous government in power decided to dissolve the Canadian Wheat Board, which was the marketing our Canadian Wheat, there was about a billion dollars in assets. These assets were to go back to all the farmers who delivered the grain to the Wheat Board over the years. It’s now five years later, no one seems to know where the money went or where it is.

A new company was set up, together with a Saudi Arabian company; the farmers have never received new shares. When the Manitoba Pool and Saskatchewan Pool elevators merged with Alberta and United Grain Growers, the assets for all the grain farmers were deposited into a new company, Viterra. We are talking in the new millennium about eight billion dollars of farmers’ assets. Viterra was taken over by a Swiss multi-national for sixteen billion dollars, to date not a farmer has seen any money of this sale.

Many, like me, still have shares from UGI and Manitoba Pool which later amalgamated with Viterra. No one seems to know what is going on. It’s like Wells Fargo taking on Mom and Pop Shops because they don’t have the legal power to stand up. Similarly, as farmers, we don’t have the independent legal power to go after our assets.

What complicates this, even more so, the Swiss Company sold most of the assets to Richardson in Winnipeg and CPS in Alberta, both privately owned. Therefore, now we have to deliver our grain to multi-nationals, at the mercy of the grain buyer.

We went from a perfectly farmer-owned grain buying and delivery system, where we were guaranteed a fair price and payment. A system that worked for close to a hundred years and served thousand of farm families on the Prairies in the good and bad times, where it generated co-op shares/assets for retirement to an elevator system where multi-nationals decide which seed to use, which crop to grow and which chemicals used. The small amount remaining is, for the farmer and his family, barely enough to stay on the farm.

After the Wheat Board was dissolved, the rail line to Churchill Port Manitoba was sold. A few years later the American Company plundered the assets and took the entire subsidy from the Canadian Government. They abandoned the Churchill Port.

Now, how does this happen? Our great-grandfathers worked so hard, now nothing is left for the Farmers standing together. We are going to a global domination of multi-nationals, as was in place prior to the 1900’s, where farmers were at the mercy to deliver their grain without choice.

As a grain and dairy farmer, I’m concerned about the new NAFTA negotiations as large companies, with large legal teams and lobbyists, setup the final draft. Government employees lack knowledge what the real wording is. All our assets, built up by the Marketing Board will disappear, just as the Wheat Board’s and all Manitoba Pool elevators assets. Dairy farms will be extinct in Manitoba, if NAFTA does not protect Canadian Dairy Farmers. Only 5 hours away, across the USA border, the Fehr Family milks 70,000 cows, yes, 70,000 cows and there are many other huge farms in South Dakota and Minnesota. We are talking like 20,000 cows per farm. In Manitoba, all dairy farmers together are milking about 35,000 cows. This will result in wiping out our complete dairy sector. It will have a huge impact on Manitoba. I hope Ottawa understands the lessons learned from dissolving the Wheat Board and the assets that disappeared.

Wishing you all a great, Fall Harvest season.