* CWB loses grain monopoly on Aug. 1
* Gov't provides funds for downsizing, transition costs
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, June 28 (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Thursday it will give the Canadian Wheat Board up to C$349 million ($339 million) over five years to cover one-time costs related to the loss of its grain marketing monopoly.
The funds will cover costs such as employee severance, pensions, benefits and computer systems as the CWB downsizes to compete in an open market.
"This one-time injection will put the CWB on stable footing as a competitive marketing option for Canadian farmers," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
The Conservative government stripped the CWB of its 69-year-old monopoly with legislation late last year, creating an open market for Western Canadian wheat and barley starting Aug. 1, 2012.
For those crops harvested at that date or later, farmers will be able to sell them to any buyer, not just the CWB.
The money will come from general government funds, not funds that the CWB had built up over the years, and is earmarked for spending related to the CWB's transition, not day-to-day business expenses.
The Winnipeg-based CWB has steadily downsized from 400 workers in December, and will likely have fewer than 100 workers by the end of 2012.
The CWB has struck agreements to use some grain handlers' country elevators as farmer delivery points for crops it buys, including facilities owned by Viterra Inc and Cargill Ltd.