Moving Canadian Grain to Asian Markets

Facilitating Unprecedented Agreement Among Stakeholders of the Canadian Wheat Board

In the mid 1990s the Canadian Wheat Board, the various wheat pools (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan), the railroads, private grain companies, and growers all sought agreement on how to revamp the logistics system for moving grain from the prairies to market. At a basic level the system points in the wrong direction, i.e., grain flow easily from West to East for export to Europe, but the largest growing market is in Asia which requires Canadian grain to flow from East to West. How do more than a dozen parties organize themselves to conduct efficiently a complex, multi-party negotiation?

CMI Concord Group facilitated such discussions using the one-text (or "single negotiating text") process invented by the late Roger Fisher at the Harvard Negotiation Project. Led by Paul Cramer, the CMI Concord team crafted a one-text that contained five major issues (i.e., the role of the Canadian Wheat Board, Rail Transportation, Elevator facilities, Terminal Facilities, and Farmer Delivery Rights), some 21 sub-issues, and multiples of options per sub-issue. The process allowed all the parties to speak to their key short-term concerns in the context of the longer-term vision for the industry. By the conclusion of an industry conference facilitated by CMI, the parties had a clear choice between the options in the one-text and their BATNAs and were able to reach an unprecedented agreement.

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