01/16/2012 04:53 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian Wheat Board layoffs begin

Job cuts have started at the newly revamped Canadian Wheat Board, which was recently stripped of its marketing monopoly.

Twenty-three people have been let go as part of the organization's "right-sizing" process, spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry told CBC News on Monday

In December, a federal law was passed to scrap the wheat board's marketing monopoly, meaning it will no longer be the sole marketer of Western Canadian wheat and barley.

"What we're doing is trying to build a competitive commercial entity, so we're trying to right-size the organization and effectively match our role and objectives in the new environment," Fitzhenry said.

Under the new law, the wheat board will lose its grain-marketing monopoly on Aug. 1.

The wheat board will still exist, but it will have to compete with other companies in the global grain market. Some critics have said that could spell the beginning of the end for the Winnipeg-based agency.

Fitzhenry could not say how many of the wheat board's 371 remaining employees will be let go.

However, she said the job cuts will continue over the next several months until the wheat board reaches its optimal size.

"What I can say is that [it] significantly reduces the scale of our operations and ultimately leads to permanent reductions in staffing requirements," she said.

Ex-directors returning to court

Supporters of the wheat board's former monopoly will be in a Winnipeg courtroom on Tuesday to seek an injunction to stop the federal government's actions.

The board's former farmer-elected directors failed in a legal bid last month to stop the changes from going ahead.

The eight farmers were later dismissed and replaced by government-appointed directors when the bill became law.

While the government-appointed board dropped the court injunction application, the former directors vowed to press on with court action against the government.