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Local grain growers association throws its support behind reforming Canadian Wheat Board

first_img“It seems to be the open market isn’t as scary a place as the Canadian Wheat Board makes it out to be,” he said. “It seems to be quite lucrative for farmers and seems to serve them well.”He said there are legitimate issues to be worked out, though, such as ensuring the capacity and cost effectiveness of rail transport for the Peace region. He said with an open-market approach, he believes farmers will find solutions to securing enough volume to effectively market and transport their products, through co-oping, for example.Zimmer said his Conservative government is not out to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.”We want to see a Canadian Wheat Board and others survive in a healthy, competitive market situation,” he said. “With the Canadian Wheat Board, there are just so many inefficiencies there, I think with an open market situation those inefficiencies can be worked out.”He said while his party certainly favours an open-market approach, he wants to hear from both sides of the debate.”I don’t want to go into that discussion with a decision already made on my part. I’m looking forward to hearing the arguments on both sides, and then bringing my voice to the committee and going from there. If a pro-Canadian Wheat Board farmer who is a constituent of mine can give a compelling argument, that is something I would love to consider.”Zimmer encouraged any local farmer who does want to consult with him on the issue to make an appointment with him through his Fort St. John constituency office at 250-787-1194 or through his office in Ottawa at 1-613-947-4524. “There are a whole number of other implications to losing the Canadian Wheat Board,” he continued. “For example, we have our government guarantee of an initial payment. We have the government standing behind the value of these sales to global customers. We have the Canadian Wheat Board coordinating the use of producer cars, which saves farmers an average of $1,000 to $1,200 per car of grain they ship. All of that goes when the Canadian Wheat Board goes.”He added farmers would lose the ability to receive operating capital through cash advances.Watson said changing the Canadian Wheat Board is “absolutely ludicrous,” and he doesn’t believe a dual-market system can work.”Farmers have promoted the dual-marketing system, but there is no such thing, it’s absolutely impossible,” he said. “If they (the Wheat Board) don’t have a commitment from farmers on how much to sell, how can they go out and sell it. They can’t just sit there and wait for grain to come into the elevator, they have to know way ahead of time what they’re marketing job is.”Prince George Peace River MP Bob Zimmer has taken an interest in the issue as a newly-appointed member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in the House of Commons. Zimmer said so far he has heard from a lot more local farmers in favour of a dual-market system, hearing anecdotes of opportunities farmers feel they are missing to market their wheat and barley.Advertisement “If we do away with that single-desk, operated by the Canadian Wheat Board, then whoever wants to buy our Canadian wheat and barley will have multiple sources to go to to get it, and do you think they will pay the highest price,” he said. “No, they will pay the lowest price. It becomes a buyers market.”He said Canadian wheat and barley has remained highly competitive in world markets precisely because of the organized, single-desk approach.”That’s mainly because our system guarantees the right product at the right place at the right time for any of our global customers,” said Watson. “They arrange the transportation of the grain to the terminals, they arrange for the ships to the terminals, they arrange the railcars to pick the grain up from the elevators – everything has to be done in a timely way.”He predicts without a single-window approach to marketing wheat and barley to the United States, there would actually be an increase protectionism by American farmers.”It’s an orderly marketing system is what it is, and if you open the borders up completely with no regulations whatsoever, then it becomes a massive dogfight, and it’s the American farmer against the Canadian farmer.”Advertisement Wutherich said while recent changes to payment programs have improved things, it still is difficult to get payment upfront for products delivered to the Wheat Board.He said there is no monopoly on marketing canola, oats or peas, and those products seem to be doing just as well as wheat or barley. He added with the world becoming much smaller with advances in communication technologies, individual farmers can market their products much easier than before.That opinion is not shared by all farmers in the Peace region, however. Allen Watson of Rolla, who just recently retired from the farm, said he feels very strongly that Western farmers need the Canadian Wheat Board.Watson said having a single marketing organization puts Western farmers at an advantage over other jurisdictions because it creates a “sellers market.”Advertisement The local association, which represents farmers in the B.C. Peace region, has joined other member associations of the Grain Growers of Canada, as well as the provincial governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, in calling for more marketing choice for wheat and barley.”We want marketing choice,” said David Wuthrich, president of the BCGPA. “If we develop new markets or places to deliver our products, it has to go through the Wheat Board first, so it limits some of our marketing opportunities. If we can find a market that is better than what they are offering, we should be allowed to go there.”He and many other farmers support a “dual-market system” to replace the current “single-desk” approach where the Wheat Board is the sole buyer and marketer for Western Canadian wheat and barley exports.- Advertisement -“We want choice, it’s not that we want them to disappear,” he said. “This is their opportunity to show they are the best option, and so far they haven’t done that. If they really wanted to go ahead, they should be looking for the best markets and getting us the best options.”He said the Wheat Board’s focus on only marketing the highest grades of wheat has been to the determent of many farmers in the Peace who grow lower grades for livestock feed and other uses.He added the current system creates an unfair playing field with the parts of Canada – Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and even the rest of British Columbia outside of the Peace region – that do not participate in the Canadian Wheat Board. He said, for example, he has customers in Vanderhoof who have delivered their grain to Washington State and were able to take advantage of higher prices and make a premium. He added he has been shipping wheat to Alaska, but had to obtain permission from the Wheat Board to do that.Advertisementlast_img read more


Beat the rain in Panamas Bocas del Toro

first_img Lindsay Fendt Ashley Harrell What to do and seeA first-time visitor to Bocas del Toro will likely be overwhelmed by the postcard-like scenery. The dockside hotels and restaurants, low hanging palm trees and crystal blue water form the perfect Caribbean island cliché, but for the intrepid tourist, Bocas del Toro offers far more than lounging around.Whether by air or by boat, tourists arrive to the archipelago via Bocas Town, the province’s capital on its largest island – Isla Colón – which also serves as the launching point for most of the area’s activities.On Isla Colón: Aside from being the restaurant/bar and tour-booking hub of Bocas del Toro, Isla Colón is also home to many of the archipelago’s best beaches. Bikes are available for rent for around $5 per day from virtually any hotel in Bocas Town. Four-wheelers, scooters and motorcycles are also available for rent and both land and water taxis frequently pass.The coastal road that stretches northeast out of Bocas Town is the portal to the island’s best surf breaks, and it’s a great bike ride. Once the pavement turns to sand, surfers can reach Playa Paunch, the Dumpster and Playa Bluff, three of the island chain’s most well-known surf spots. The laidback beachfront art lounge Paki Point is along the way, offering delicious food, cold beer and board rentals.For those looking for a more secluded adventure, the island’s extreme northern beach, Boca del Drago, allows overnight camping for those hoping to spot sea turtles. Nearby is the Playa de las Estrellas, the beach of stars, known for its clear water and abundant starfish. Local buses leave daily for the beaches, but don’t attempt to bike there – particularly on a beach cruiser. Carnero: While Isla Colón is chock-full of hostels and up-all-night party bars, Casa Acuario sits just a $1 water taxi away on the more relaxed Isla Carenero. The two-story, five-room turquoise hotel perches on a dock over the shallow, aquamarine water. The air-conditioned rooms each have their own semi-private balconies with a hammock, table and chairs overlooking the ocean. Guests can catch a water taxi right off the dock using the hotel’s handy signaling light, or step right off the back porch onto one of the island’s white-sand swimming beaches.Solarte/Bastimentos: For those seeking an even more private and natural experience, there’s the Garden of Eden, which actually sits on its very own extension of mangroves from Isla Solarte. Though it was once a clothing-optional resort, a down-to-earth new owner has taken the place in a more general-audience direction, renovating the three spacious and elegant waterfront cabins and bringing on an incredibly skilled chef. A stay includes access to a refreshing pool, a friendly Weimaraner named Zeus, and kayaks. It’s just a short paddle over to Isla Bastimentos’ Red Frog Beach as well as Los Secretos resort, which serves up pizza from its wood-fired oven Thursday-Sunday. It’s a bit of a climb to reach the hilltop restaurant, but the views of the surrounding islands are well worth it. On Bastimentos, options range from the La Loma Jungle Lodge (which operates it owns coffee farm), to the upscale, beachfront and jungle-side cabins of Casa Cayuco. Where to eatOver the past 10 years, a thriving culinary scene has evolved in Bocas Town to offer a wide array of international and local dishes. Nothing quite beats the lobster though, and on our first night there, we stumbled into Hotel Bocas Town based on its lobster signage. A six-pound monster had just been caught by a local fisherman and sold to the hotel, and we purchased it for a mere $40. It took two hours to devour the succulent meat. Delicious.Other restaurants of note include Guari Guari – a hidden marvel known for six-course masterpieces, Bocart– a gastronomic, “MediterrAsian” fusion place with Caribbean flair, and La Casbah – a romantic option with great service and mouthwatering steak.On Isla Carenero, Bibi’s on the Beach is an old favorite. Under a thatched-roof by water, Bibi’s serves up some of Bocas del Toro’s best Caribbean-style seafood. Reasonably priced tropical seafood sandwiches and freshly caught whole-fish are on the menu, but the restaurant is best known for its ceviche, which changes daily based on that day’s catch. It wasn’t long ago that Panama’s Caribbean archipelago, Bocas del Toro, was a hidden, nine-island prize for adventurous travelers. Today, new hotels and restaurants are unveiled every few months, and the string of tropical islands is far from secret. But with plenty of great dining establishments, hotels and activities, spending a week in Bocas definitely still feels like a win, particularly in September and October when the Pacific side is rainy.Just a four-hour bus-and-boat trip from the Costa Rican Caribbean travel destination of Puerto Viejo, Bocas del Toro has become a popular border-run destination for expats and a convenient stop for travelers aiming to visit both countries. There’s even talk of branding the two destinations as a coastal package deal, offering relaxation with a splash of culture.The wildlife is nothing to sneeze at either. Smack in the middle of a huge coral reef system, Bocas’ nine main islands and 200-some islets are home to a diverse population of fish and marine mammals. In addition to the area’s great diving and snorkeling, the ocean’s coral floor generates amazing surf breaks. For those more comfortable on land, the islands’ well-developed tourism industry has it all: chocolate farms, bat caves, white-sand beaches and a rollicking bar scene. Lindsay Fendt On Isla Bastimentos: About a 10-minute boat ride from Isla Colón, Isla Bastimentos is a mix of untamed wilderness, remote beaches and upscale luxury developments.  The island is home to what are widely regarded as the best beaches in Bocas del Toro – Red Frog and Wizard Beach. The Red Frog tour company also has ziplining, snorkeling and fishing tours. Additionally, Bastimentos hosts a large community of the indigenous Ngobe-Buglé people.Visitors can grab lunch at the community’s center, Bahía Honda, and then hit up the area’s most popular tour, Nivida Bat Cave. Though definitely not for the claustrophobic, the bat cave is worth undertaking for those looking for a wonderfully creepy experience. Though he does not speak English, the Ngobe-Buglé guide Rutilio Milton knows the cave inside and out (6726-0968).Tours: Just about every boat-owner in Bocas del Toro offers some kind of informal half-day tour. Everything from sloth and dolphin spotting to snorkeling and underwater tow surfing are available for about $25 to $40 per person. For something more unique, try a tour to the uninhabited beaches on the far-flung Zapatilla islands, which offer white sand beaches surrounding pristine jungle (entrance to this national park costs $10). For diving tours and certification courses, head to Starfleet Scuba right off the main road in Bocas Town, and for a booze cruise, ask around about the Trunca Negra – an old refurbished steamship set to hit the waters again in coming weeks.Where to stay Ashley Harrell A water taxi flies by the Casa Acuario dock on Isla Carenero. Water taxis are the preferred mode of transportation in Bocas del Toro and can be hired for as little as $1 per person per trip. Bocas Town: Hostels abound, but for travelers looking for a more upscale and tidy experience, there is the TripAdvisor favorite, Tropical Suites. The waterfront boutique hotel’s 16 well-appointed suites feature triptych paintings of red frogs, Jacuzzi tubs and fully stocked kitchens. The Serta pillow-topped mattresses are super comfy, and offer semi-private balconies facing the ocean and the nearby Isla Carenero, which also offers a few great sleeping options. Tropical fish congregate around the dock at the hotel Garden of Eden on Isla Solarte. Related posts:Bocas del Toro: The definition of ‘island paradise’ Nature Air adds flight to Bocas del Toro Panama Canal expansion hits $570 million snag Panama Canal begins centennial countdown amid expansion works Lindsay Fendt Casa Acuario on Isla Carenero sits on a dock right over the water. An ocean view room at Tropical Suites in Bocas Town.  If you’re just looking for a refreshing drink and some light bites, try The Wizard smoothie at La Buguita or a passion fruit cocktail at Maracuya.Where to drink By day, Bocas del Toro is known for its tropical beaches. By night, the island chain is legendary for its party scene.While there is no shortage of beer-friendly hostels on Isla Colón, none are quite like hostel/bar combo Mondo Taitu. With cheap drink specials and shots with names like alien brain hemorrhage, this backpackers haven is popular almost every night of the week.Right off the main street in Bocas Town, the Iguana Surf Club’s dockside dance floor and waterfront patio invites swimsuit-clad partiers every week.Trampolines, swings and dock holes fashioned into swimming pools might not sound like the safest thing for a bunch of drunk partiers, but the owners at Aqua Lounge seem to disagree. If inebriated water acrobatics aren’t your cup of tea, the lounge also hosts beer pong and beer Olympics tournaments ever week.If ping pong is more your style, the Bocas Book Store (which doubles as a super-fun bar) hosts a competitive tournament every Sunday.  Facebook Comments Bibi’s on the Beach on Isla Carenero serves up delicious Caribbean-style seafood.last_img read more