07/26/2012 04:09 EDT | Updated 09/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Former Canadian Wheat Board directors ask Supreme Court to weigh in on agency

EDMONTON - A new shot has been fired in the ongoing legal battle over the Canadian Wheat Board.

Eight former farmer-elected directors of the board are asking the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal a lower court ruling on the way the federal government stripped the agency of its marketing monopoly.

Supporters of the board's monopoly have been arguing the federal government didn't follow a law that required it to let grain farmers vote on the future of the wheat board.

"We believe that this case raises issues that are important to all Canadians and is worthy of careful consideration by the Supreme Court," Allen Oberg, a farmer and former chairman of the wheat board said Thursday.

A Federal Court judge had ruled in favour of grain farmers who wanted such a vote, but that ruling was later overturned in the government's favour by the Federal Court of Appeal.

Last December, the Conservatives used their majority in Parliament to scrap the board's monopoly on marketing Western wheat and barley starting Aug. 1.

The federal government announced last month that it will spend $349 million to help pay for the severance and pensions of wheat board employees as they leave the agency.

Oberg said if the high court hears the appeal and rules in their favour, they would still like to see an official vote on the issue.

Farmers rejected the idea of scrapping the board's marketing monopoly in an unofficial plebiscite last summer, but the results were not recognized by Ottawa.

"A plebiscite of the affected farmers in the summer of 2011 proved that the farmers were not in agreement with the destructive actions of the government," Oberg said.

"It is on the behalf of those farmers and other Canadians that believe in honesty, fair play and the rule of law that we are making this application to the Supreme Court."

Agriculture Canada officials were not immediately available for comment.

A group called Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board is supporting the leave to appeal application and is also pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. The group is seeking damages and hopes to restore the board's marketing monopoly.

A judge is expected to decide sometime this fall whether the class-action lawsuit will be certified to go ahead.