In this interview Darrin Qualman explores the history of farmer co-operatives in Saskatchewan and more broadly the prairie regions of Canada, focusing specifically on the collective wheat pools and the federally regulated Canadian Wheat Board. Qualman is an author and community activist, who has worked extensively with Canada's National Farmers Union, while also working internationally as a board member of Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group).
Qualman addresses some of the context and history of the rural co-operative movement in Saskatchewan, pointing to the important role that agricultural co-operatives play in illustrating a concrete alternative to corporate capitalism.
The Cereal Research Centre (CRC) is being closed this month, marking the end of nearly a century of public plant breeding in Winnipeg. It is another sorry landmark on the Harper government's systematic path of destruction through Canada's public agriculture institutions.
Publicly funded plant breeding at the CRC, along with other Agriculture Canada research stations and several Canadian universities, has produced most of Canada's cereal crop varieties, which are the foundation for our multi-billion dollar grain industry. According to Industry Canada, approximately 50 per cent of wheat and oat acreage in Canada is seeded to varieties developed at the CRC -- varieties that represent a farm-gate value of close to $2.5 billion.
Problems in getting wheat to market may not be a top-of-mind issue for Canadians living east of the Prairies, but could have a significant impact on the next federal election.
As western farmers wait and wait for Canada's rail companies to ship their grain, falling prices have largely wiped out profits from this past year's bumper harvest. Prairie politicians -- including Conservative premiers Alison Redford and Brad Wall -- have begged the federal government for months to act, warning about the grain transportation crisis.