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Canadian Wheat Board Monopoly Challenged By Alberta, Saskatchewan And British Columbia

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- SAINT ANDREWS, N.B. - Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are backing the federal government's plan to end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on wheat and barley sales.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud says farmers spend their own money on land and machinery to grow grain, so they should get to decide how they sell it.

The three western-most provinces threw their support behind Ottawa at the annual agriculture ministers meeting in Saint Andrews, N.B.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he was pleased that three of the four Prairie provinces "shackled" by the wheat board monopoly are supporting the government's plan.

He said the board's control over wheat and barley sales has to go if the grain industry is to grow stronger.

"At the federal level, we want to make sure that all farmers are able to not only produce and harvest their world-class crops, but also have the ability to market them whether that's individually or through a pooling system," he said Friday at the meeting.

"Every single farmer must have a choice in how they market their grain and no expensive survey should trump that right."

The wheat board has ordered a vote on it. Farmers will be asked whether western wheat or barley should remain under the board's control.

Ritz has said a vote isn't needed to eliminate the board's control, but a group called the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board disagrees and has asked the Federal Court to intervene.

Manitoba opposes stripping the wheat board of its monopoly, saying it will lead to job losses and pit farmers against each other.

The Grain Growers of Canada says it respects Manitoba's concerns, but feels B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan are on the right track.

Several other groups, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the National Cattle Feeders' Association, have also thrown their support behind the federal government's move.

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