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Farmers riding wave of optimism, CWB survey

Prairie grain farmers are more optimistic for the future than any time in the past 11 years. 78 percent of farmers expect their operations to be profitable, an 18 percent increase from last year.


June 9, 2008
By Canadian Wheat Board

June 6, 2008
Winnipeg
, Man. – Optimism for the future is higher among Prairie grain farmers than at any time in the 11 years that the CWB has conducted an annual producer survey.
Results of the 2008 CWB survey, released today, show that more farmers expect to make a profit than at any time since the question was first asked in 2003. Seventy-eight per cent of farmers expect their operations to be profitable, up from 60 per cent last year and only 25 per cent in 2005. Thirty-three per cent said their farm business is doing “just fine” – double the number from last year’s survey. The survey was conducted among 1,300 farmers in
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba between March 7 and 17.
“This is an exciting time to be a grain producer,” said CWB chair Larry Hill, who farms 3,600 acres of cereal grains and pulse crops near Swift Current. “After an extremely dark period for farm income, we can finally see the potential for a brighter future with commodity prices that make it possible to earn a living from the land.”

However, Hill said huge cost increases for farm inputs like fuel and fertilizer are a major concern to producers, which was clearly reflected in survey interviews. “Phosphate fertilizer this spring cost me $1,350 a tonne – more than double what I paid last fall,” he said. “Fuel costs for my equipment and trucks have also doubled over the past few years.”

The survey showed that the CWB continues to have a strong support base among the Prairie farmers it serves. Farmers indicated that the views of the CWB are far closer to their own than any other organization tested. All things considered, 65 per cent of farmers support the CWB, with 42 per cent saying their impression of the CWB has improved and 14 per cent indicating that it has worsened.

Farmer control of the CWB is very important to Prairie producers, the survey showed. A total of 77 per cent believe (64 per cent strongly) that the future of the CWB should be determined by farmer-elected directors of the CWB and not by the federal government. “Farmers elect us to represent them at the CWB board table and they clearly believe that is where the power over its future should reside,” said Hill, an elected farmer since 1998.

Most farmers also wish that the government’s legislation on barley marketing had never been introduced, with 60 per cent saying they would have preferred that the government dropped the issue after a July 2007 federal court ruling that stopped changes being made to barley marketing by regulation. Seventy-three per cent of barley growers surveyed believe the CWB’s new CashPlus program for malting barley meets the needs of barley producers.

Marketing preferences are largely stable. Support for single-desk marketing (for both wheat and barley) has declined from last year’s 10-year high and is now back to the average support level shown over the 11 years that the survey has been fielded. For barley, farmers continue to prefer a so-called “dual market”, also at a similar level to the 11-year average.

For wheat marketing, there is little support for an open market among farmers (12 per cent). Farmers are instead split between the CWB single desk and “dual marketing” when given such a choice. When asked to choose between the more realistic options of the single desk or an open market, the majority continue to support the CWB system. Survey results have been posted at www.cwb.ca.

Controlled by western Canadian farmers, the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of
Canada’s biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells grain to over 70 countries and returns all sales revenue, less marketing costs, to farmers.