A PLEBISCITE by farmers in western Canada on whether or not they think the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB

24 Jan, 2007 08:45 PM
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The Canadian plebiscite will poll farmers about their views on barley marketing, which accounts for the smallest portion of CWB¹s business.

Voting will start next week with results announced in mid-March.

Accounting firm KPMG will manage the vote that will determine if CWB, one of the world¹s largest grain sellers, will continue to hold its monopoly on barley sales.

With Australian wheatgrowers now facing a review on the future of its wheat marketing arrangements, the decision to provide western Canadian barley growers with a vote has sparked the interest of at least one interested observer.

NSW independent MP Tony Windsor said a poll of all Australian wheatgrowers was needed, despite the recent appointment of the Wheat Export Marketing Consultation Committee.

Mr Windsor said whatever recommendations were given to the government by the consultative committee there still needed to be a poll of all growers to ensure industry views were formally recorded.

³The appointment of the Wheat Export Marketing Consultation Com-mittee by the Australian Government should only be a step in the process of delivering a long-term solution to the export marketing of Australian wheat,² Mr Windsor said.

³The current single desk system has served Australia very well, giving growers confidence and security when dealing on corrupt international wheat markets.

³Any changes to the current process need to be accepted and supported by Australian wheatgrowers so that they can continue to grow wheat with confidence that they will be competitive with other wheatgrowing countries.

³To do this, I again call for a proper poll of all growers.²

Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile committed to a grower poll, but later backed away from the idea in preference to a consultation process.

Meanwhile, Federal Agriculture Min-ister Peter McGauran all but ruled out the possibility of a vote to determine the single desk¹s future.

Mr McGauran said polling wheatgrowers would be equivalent to the government ³contracting out² decision-making.

He said the government needed to consult more broadly with more than wheatgrowers, and polling presented practical problems that made the option ineffective.

³There is a practical problem in that there are a number of views or positions in between those most expressed, which are maintenance of the status quo and deregulation,² Mr McGauran said.

³I don¹t believe a ballot would be able to canvass all of these different options and variations of what are the extremities of the debate.²

Pastoralists and Graziers Association grains policy director Slade Brockman said he completely rejected the idea of conducting a vote on the future of wheat marketing in Australia.

³We¹ve already had our wheat poll,² Mr Brockman said.

³I think growers made their feelings quite clear with how they warehoused their wheat and sold it to the CBH wheat pool.

³To give growers a vote would run the risk of distorting the issue and I think written submissions that thoroughly consider the best way forward is the best method of approach.²

Meanwhile, the Wheat Export Marketing Consultation Committee has announced it will conduct public meetings in Geraldton, Dalwallinu, Mer-redin, Katanning, Lake Grace, Esp-erance and Perth as part of the WA leg of its review process.

The actual times and dates for the public meetings in WA are yet to be announced.

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