Steps are being taken to speed up payments to grain farmers

Last week our Conservative government introduced the Canadian Wheat Board Payments and Election Reform Act (Bill C-27) to strengthen the farmers voice within the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and streamline the process required to deliver payments to producers. “Western Canadian farmers deserve to get paid as quickly as possible and they also deserve effective governance,” said Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. “This legislation will streamline the process required to pay farmers for their top-quality grain to help make sure pay cheques hit mailboxes as quickly as possible.”

Bill C-27 ensures that board members are elected by farmers who are actually involved in producing at least 40 tonnes of grain, or who are entitled to 40 tonnes under a crop-share arrangement. This approach is based on recommendations from the 2005 CWB Election Review Panel and the CWB itself.

The legislation eliminates Treasury Board approval in the process to pay producers for their grain and could speed up the payment process by as much as three weeks. We are committed to increasing the CWB’s accountability to farmers and to improving the way the federal government works for producers.

These changes to the CWB Act are part of our ongoing transformation and modernization of the Canadian grain sector. Certain activities currently requiring multiple approvals can be ‘sped-up’ by leaving the decision to the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance. We will accelerate the approval process for initial payments, adjustments to initial payments, interim payments, final payments, management of the CWB separate account, freight adjustment factors, grain inventory adjustment, and additional payments for producers who have grain delivered in a railway car. These activities will be more streamlined, but still subject to the same level of scrutiny and review by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and the Department of Finance.

At my Constituency office and events I attend year in and year out, I hear from local producers that have real questions and real suggestions when it comes to ‘thickening’ our profit margins when marketing our grain. Whether it’s changes to regulations and laws concerning Crop Insurance, the Canadian Grains Commission, the Canadian Grains Act, or the CWB, the average farmer hopes that the federal government will be helpful in the process of marketing our grain internationally.

In the past year, our Conservative government has been successful in expanding our international agricultural customer base and increasing sales. The folks conducting the hard work in the fields rely on our efforts. There is more to be done politically, but in the minority Parliament, it is difficult to convince even the Liberals to take the basic steps modernizing and ramping up the performance of Canada’s grain sector.

Western producers suffered under successive Liberal governments that ‘sat on their hands’ instead of cultivating opportunities. We have always said that our government supports a strong future for the CWB. With Bill C-27, we are responding to the call made by farmers.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail sorenk1@parl.gc.ca.