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The fall of the wheat pools

A brief history of the rise and fall of Canada's grain pools

In the early 1920s, the Alberta Wheat Pool (AWP), Manitoba Pool Elevators (MPE) and Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (SWP) were formed as grain pooling and marketing cooperatives to increase the price that Prairie farmers received for their grain.

All three were financially successful until the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

As a result of substantial losses by the Pools, grain marketing became the responsibility of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), a federal agency created in 1935. The three cooperatives continued to operate their grain elevator systems after the CWB assumed the grain marketing function.

SWP became a publicly-traded cooperative in March 1996. After a series of bad investments and mounting financial losses, control switched to investors and the SWP effectively ceased to be a cooperative in the early-2000s.

The three Pools (MPE and AWP had earlier merged to form Agricore) and a former grain handling cooperative, United Grain Growers, were combined to create Viterra, which was recently sold to Glencore International.

The CWB has also changed its structure. The legislation to remove its single-desk selling powers (Bill C-18) took effect on August 1, 2012 and the CWB is now run as a voluntary grain marketing organization. (For more on this topic, read “Feed the world.”) ◊