55 PERCENT OF BARLEY FARMERS BACK CANADA FREE MARKET

55 PERCENT OF BARLEY FARMERS BACK CANADA FREE MARKET

A majority of Canada's western farmers want free-market barley sales to the United States restored and outside the monopoly control of the Canadian Wheat Board.

This was the conclusion of a just-released survey following a controversial court decision last September that struck down a short-lived attempt by the previous Progressive Conservative federal government to allow free-market barley export sales to the United States.The so-called "continental market" for barley had been in place for about six weeks, since Aug. 1, before the Winnipeg-based wheat board took back full control.

The survey by the Dunvegan Group, a Calgary-based research firm, showed 55 percent of respondents favoring barley sales outside the control of the wheat board, while 32 percent said they backed the wheat board's monopoly.

Canadian barley exports to the U.S. have increased from 278,000 metric tons in 1988 to 473,000 metric tons in 1992. Barley is a coarse grain sold primarily as livestock feed and as a source of malt for beer.

Alberta barley producers had led the drive for reform of the marketing system on the grounds that the wheat board had failed to capitalize on opportunities, especially to significantly boost sales to U.S. brewers.

But wheat pools from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba successfully challenged the initiative.

A federal court ruled that the free-market decision was illegal because it was made unilaterally by the federal agriculture department rather than being passed in Parliament.

While the wheat pools hailed the court ruling, the former Tory government launched an appeal. But the new Liberal government in power since November said it will not proceed with this appeal.