Bloomberg News

Federal Court Rules Wheat Board Act Violates Canadian Law

December 07, 2011

(Updates with details from ruling in second paragraph and Board statement in third paragraph.)

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Government legislation to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board’s nearly seven-decade monopoly on grain marketing is illegal, the nation’s Federal Court ruled.

Legislation that passed Canada’s House of Commons Nov. 28 violated the law governing the Wheat Board because the government didn’t conduct a vote among farmers, the court said today in ruling posted on its website. The CWB sued in October to retain its single-desk marketing system after conducting its own plebiscite among farmers, who voted to retain the monopoly.

The government should “comply with the spirit of this ruling and immediately cease actions that would strip away Prairie farmers’ single-desk marketing system without first allowing a vote by affected producers,” Wheat Board chairman Allen Oberg said today in a statement.

Since 1943, the monopoly has required farmers in Canada’s main growing region to sell all their wheat and barley meant for human consumption to the Board. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, arguing that an open market will encourage investment and innovation, proposed legislation in October to end the monopoly by Aug. 1. The measure is awaiting approval from the Senate.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said the government aimed to pass the legislation by the end of this year. Ritz will hold a media teleconference at 3:15 p.m. today in Ottawa to discuss the ruling, according to a release from the ministry.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said in the House of Commons that the government will appeal the ruling.

“The minister breached his statutory duty to consult with the Board and conduct a vote of wheat and barley producers,” according to the ruling from Justice Douglas R. Campbell.

The Canadian Wheat Board’s jurisdiction covers Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and parts of British Columbia, the region that produces the majority of the country’s wheat.

--With assistance from Greg Quinn in Ottawa. Editors: Steve Stroth, Paul Badertscher

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Mayeda in Ottawa at amayeda@bloomberg.net; Whitney McFerron in Chicago at wmcferron1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net


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