“Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he’s all about putting “farmers first.”
At first blush, this sounds like a pretty reasonable motto for an ag minister raised on a Saskatchewan farm. Who doesn’t like farmers, after all? They do tough, essential work that feeds us all.
The catch is that “farmers first” often implies “consumers last.” And what Mr. Ritz really means is that some farmers come first, but not all farmers.
As the Harper government pushes ahead with long-promised legislation to overhaul the Canadian Wheat Board, Ottawa’s incoherent and intellectually dishonest farm policy is now on full display.
The government is stripping the wheat board of its grain-marketing monopoly on the grounds that farmers deserve free and open markets, like their brethren in potatoes, cattle, fruits and vegetables. Mr. Ritz insists farmers should choose how they market their products so they can “attract investment, encourage innovation and create value-added jobs.”
But that doesn’t apply to dairy, egg, chicken and turkey farmers. These farmers operate in a hermetically sealed regime marked by tight central control of production, the near-total exclusion of imports, and higher prices for everyone.
And the government has made it quite clear that’s the way it should be. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s ready to defend the so-called supply management system, now and forever.
Beyond history, it’s hard to figure out what makes a dairy farmer so different from a cattle rancher or an apple grower. If open markets are so clearly in the best interests of grain farmers in Western Canada, why aren’t they also good for the dairy farmers of Quebec and Ontario?…”