Author: 800 CHAB News

A CWB farmer-elected director and staff member are with the Canadian delegation in Geneva this week to ensure that the interests of Prairie wheat and barley farmers are represented this week at a pivotal meeting of the World Trade Organization.

Government ministers from WTO member nations are meeting as part of efforts to reach a draft agreement by July 31 that would govern international trade in agriculture.

"As these negotiations come to a head, it's important that we take every opportunity to put forward the case of western Canadian farmers as strongly as possible,"said Larry Hill, a Saskatchewan farmer who chairs the CWB's trade committee. "We need a world trade deal that is good for farmers and recognizes their importance in the agricultural economy."

A new blueprint for the WTO agriculture negotiations was released last week by the chair of the agriculture committee. Of particular concern is a clause regarding exporting State Trading Enterprises (STEs) and "the use of monopoly powers”. The draft modalities paper proposes an option that use of such powers be eliminated -- contrary to a ministerial declaration adopted in December 2005 in Hong Kong which indicated that there should be new rules governing use of monopoly powers, but they should not be eliminated. The definition of exporting STEs includes entities like the CWB and provincially legislated marketing boards that export agricultural goods.

"Losing the single desk means losing the ability to compete head-to-head with the multinational giants that control the global grain trade," said Hill.

The CWB's 2006 Producer Survey showed Prairie farmers are well aware of the effect that a WTO agreement could have on their farms. Three-quarters of western Canadian farmers surveyed said they expect that WTO demands will have an impact on them personally.

Hill said he is confident the Canadian government will continue to fight to ensure that the fate of the CWB is not decided by powerful WTO players like the U.S. and Europe, which have targeted the Canadian wheat system to appease protectionist interests.

"It is reassuring that the agriculture minister has acknowledged that the future of the CWB single desk is a domestic issue that should not be determined by our competitors at the WTO table."

The CWB believes a WTO deal in agriculture is needed that would increase market access and reduce trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies to level the playing field for western Canadian farmers. It is also critical to eliminate export subsidies and provide adequate disciplines on export credit and the use of food aid to ensure these programs are not used as disguised export subsidies.