10/27/2011 01:36 EDT | Updated 12/27/2011 05:12 EST

Western Canadian Wheat Growers Counter Sue Wheat Board


WINNIPEG - A Western farm group is trying to block the Canadian Wheat Board from going to court over the federal government's plan to strip the board of its monopoly powers.

This brings to three the number of current or planned court cases around the bill that fulfills a longstanding Conservative promise to its supporters in the West.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers have hired their own lawyers and will seek an injunction or any other measure that would stop the wheat board from proceeding with it's challenge of that legislation.

President Kevin Bender says the wheat board is misusing farmers' money to fight the government.

Chairman Gerrid Gust says the wheat board's directors can use their own money if they want to go to court.

"This is not their personal slush fund," he said Thursday as the farm group announced its plan.

"They have no right to use farmers’ funds to advance a political agenda."

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was quick to support the action by the wheat growers, which has a long history of opposition to the wheat board's monopoly.

"It’s clear that farmers are fed up with the way that Mr. Oberg is recklessly spending their hard-earned money," he said in an emailed statement from his office.

"Farmers want marketing freedom because they know it’s a freedom they deserve and that an open market will put more money in their pockets."

On Wednesday, wheat board chairman Allen Oberg made good on his promise to go to court to fight the legislation introduced last week.

He says the way Ritz is proceeding is illegal and violates the Canadian Wheat Board Act in the way it strips the board of its monopoly powers over marketing western wheat and barley.

Ritz says Parliament is supreme and can change legislation as it sees fit.

The wheat growers expect their legal action to be filed early next week.

"The Wheat Growers are looking forward to an open market for wheat and barley," added Bender.

Even before the legislation was introduced and the wheat board challenged it, a group called friends of the Canadian Wheat Board went to court asking for a review of the plan on similar grounds to those cited by the wheat board — Ottawa isn't abiding by the terms of the wheat board legislation.

Oberg has said he doesn't know what will happen with that case now that the board itself has entered the fray, but he raised the possibility they might be combined.