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Farm Focus

Rural residents will have a choice between two Peace Country farmers this year in the race for the Canadian Wheat Board. Some 13 people got their nomination papers in by the Oct.

Rural residents will have a choice between two Peace Country farmers this year in the race for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Some 13 people got their nomination papers in by the Oct. 15 deadline to run for a seat on the board, which is holding elections this year in its odd-numbered districts. At least two people are running in each district, with four vying for Larry Hill’s old seat in District 3.

Competing against District 1 incumbent Henry Vos is Dan Gauthier, a third-generation farmer from Donnelly south of Peace River. “We need to save the single desk,” he says. “It’s the power we have to market grain as a group that allows us to attract premiums.”

The single desk refers to the board’s monopoly over grain sales in Western Canada. Supporters say it gives farmers more clout to demand better prices. Detractors, particularly the provincial Progressive Conservatives and federal Conservatives, say it restricts farmer freedom.

“The government, both federally and provincially, should stay out of this issue,” Gauthier says. “This is an issue that needs to be debated amongst farmers.”

He also criticized Vos for lobbying to end the single desk. Vos was elected on an anti-single desk platform in 2006.

Gauthier cited his business acumen and prior terms with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission and Canola Council of Canada as reasons to vote for him.

Vos says he’s glad to see someone else in this race. “Having two candidates in any election is always a healthy choice for voters.”

Farmers should get their voting packages in the mail after Oct. 26. Ballots are due Dec. 3. For details, visit www.cwbelection.com or call 1-877-780-8683.

A local farm group is disappointed in a federal report that recommends rail companies be given three more years to address grain growers’ complaints.

Transport Canada released a draft of its rail freight service review earlier this month. The review, which has been in the works for years, is meant to address ongoing complaints about rail shipments from people like farmers.

Farmers, loggers and miners have had plenty of problems in recent years with Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, Canada’s two rail companies, according to Rod Scarlett, executive director of the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers. Cars haven’t been arriving on time or in the numbers needed, causing missed deliveries and lost sales.

The review panel agreed there had been “significant service problems” during the last two years for many bulk rail customers, and that, “many, but certainly not all, of the problems relate to the performance of CN and CP.” A lack of competition seemed to be shielding CN and CP from customer complaints and most stakeholders had called for regulation as a solution.

The draft recommends the government give industry time to work out these problems, arguing that commercial solutions would be more flexible than regulation.

The railways should agree to give customers 10 days notice before changing service levels, create formal service agreements, establish a dispute resolution process, and beef up their reporting, the draft says. If industry did not take these steps by 2013, the government should bring in regulation.

This was a very disappointing report, Scarlett says. Farmers wanted to see immediate steps taken to improve competition and dispute resolution, such as joint running rights, which would let CP and CN use each other’s rails, or legislation. “It identifies some problems but identifies no solutions.”

Transport Canada is taking comments on the report until Nov. 8, and expects to have a final version ready by the end of the year. The report is available at www.tc.gc.ca by clicking on Rail Transportation, Rail Policy, and Rate Freight Service Review.