It is a survey that will create plenty of discussion in the farming community.
Prairie canola growers are being asked if they would be interested in having the Canadian Wheat Board sell some or all of their crop on a voluntary basis.
The Manitoba Canola Growers Association is conducting the survey in response to a resolution by its members passed five years ago to investigate alternative marketing methods.
The CWB can be a sensitive issue and polarizing subject among some farmers in light of the long-running battle over the sales monopoly on western Canadian wheat, durum and malting barley.
"We have been very serious and very diligent about being absolutely neutral about the board's other activities," says MCGA Vice-President Ed Rempel. "We approached them and this is strictly business."
A meeting was held on Nov. 18, 2010 to discuss the mechanics of how the CWB would market and move canola from farm to port.
"Without getting too specific, they (CWB) feel from time to time, there may be a way to reduce costs somewhat. They have said in fairness, that it is not a great deal (of money), which tells us the line (grain) companies and crushers are doing an okay job, but they thought they could add some value," Rempel says.
The MCGA says potential benefits for growers include professional marketing by a producer-controlled organization, risk management through price pooling and greater use of producer cars and the Port of Churchill.
The MCGA ran ads containing the survey in western Canadian agriculture media this week. It has four questions and room for comments. The main question is "how many tonnes of canola would you be interested in having the CWB market on your behalf?" The survey can also be completed online until the end of April at http://www.mcgacanola.org/.
"We think a lot of producers are going to be curious about this," says Rempel, comparing it to putting your toe in the water. "Depending on their size, they may commit 100, 200 or 300 tonnes, if they are a larger producer."
It is believed at least 200,000 tonnes of canola spread across the prairie region are needed to make the idea viable. A marketing plan would also have to be developed and approved by both the CWB board of directors and the minister responsible for the CWB.
Saskatchewan has the highest canola production in Canada. Sask Canola, which represents provincial growers, is not commenting on the survey until after it holds a board of directors meeting on April 20.