Somehow it seems farmers on the Prairies, and particularly in Saskatchewan seem to be finding themselves thrust into a modern version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and that book wasn’t exactly the happiest vision of the future.
On one hand farmers face the uncertainty the federal government’s arrogance has cast upon the Canadian Wheat Board.
That is a theme touched on in this space before, it remains primarily a question of the high-handedness of the government, and its willingness to ignore the legislation as written in this country — all too much Huxley for my liking — regardless of which side of the CWB debate you fall.
And now we have the spectre of Viterra being chopped up like some carcass in a butcher shop and sold off to feed the voracious appetites of other corporations to grow.
The issue came up when Glencore PLC, a major international commodity trading firms, paired with two Canadian companies, James Richardson & Sons Ltd. and Agrium Inc., to announce intentions to buy Regina-based Viterra.
This is a difficult offer to get one’s head around, but it does speak to a continuing erosion of local farmer control of marketing grain.
It was not so many years ago speakers at almost every farm forum spoke of farmers needing to gain greater control of the system. It was reasoned the producers only gave farmers little control and they needed some investment up the chain toward the consumer.
When founded the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool was doing that, years ahead of speakers in the 1980s and ’90s.
With the creation of Viterra of course the direct farmer control was already gone, but at least management remained in the province.
And now Viterra may be lost to the wind.
Not surprisingly Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come out as supportive of the idea. Sorry folks given his CWB handling that endorsement rings as a warning bell.
To his credit Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has announced his government will review the proposed takeover. The government will hire Informa Economics to review the bid.
Wall has said the government will use the independent analysis to help decide if the takeover is in Saskatchewan’s best interests or not.
The Wall government, as business oriented as it may be, did come out against a recent proposed bid for PotashCorp so the Viterra study should prove interesting.
Regardless of the outcome of the Viterra situation, and ultimately the CWB — once the courts make rulings — farmers are seeing an erosion of control.
Farm members are not in control of Viterra, or of any potential buyer, nor do they site at the board table for whatever version of the Wheat Board may, or may not emerge once Harper’s government have their way.
Funny how what everyone said farmers needed only a few years ago is being forgotten and in fact lost now — A Brave New World indeed.