The commission says buyers need to adjust for smaller but still sound canola seed harvested last fall
The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) is warning canola growers to be on guard for excessive dockage deductions this crop year.
“Unexpected dockage levels are a common concern among canola producers this year,” CGC chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson said in a news release last week.
“Were the dockage levels in your canola a little higher this year than you expected? If so, you’re not alone.”
Hot, dry growing conditions last summer resulted in many canola fields producing smaller seeds than usual, Hermanson said. However, those seeds are still sound. Canola buyers should be adjusting their sieves before assessing dockage, which is unwanted material such as weed seeds, in a crop.
Hermanson said the Official Grain Grading Guide states that when choosing sieves:
1. Use the round-hole sieve that will achieve maximum removal of large material with minimum loss of canola. Sieve each portion until maximum cleanout has been achieved.
2. Use the slotted sieve that will reduce the admixture of conspicuous inseparable material to within the grade tolerance with a minimum loss of reasonably sound canola.
“If a slotted sieve with larger openings is used, many sound, smaller seeds will fall through and be included as dockage,” Hermanson said. “Therefore, a smaller slotted sieve should be used to minimize the loss of reasonably sound canola.”
Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) president Ed Rempel suspects he is among the victims of excessive dockage.
“I just know that my dockage levels (this crop year) have doubled,” from around 1.7 to four per cent, the Starbuck-area farmer said in an interview March 22.
“If I’m the owner of a grain elevator… I would not go out of my way to reduce the dockage I was removing unless I heard a lot of complaining. It’s just human nature.”
The CGC advises farmers to know their rights and be prepared. Farmers should familiarize themselves with the proper procedures for determining dockage on the commission’s website at grainscanada.gc.ca.
They should also know the quality of their grain and the dockage before delivering. The CGC will provide both for $24.40, plus GST. Just prepare a representative sample and send it to the CGC.
If farmers disagree with the grade or dockage at the time of delivery they can request the CGC determine the grade or dockage. The CGC’s ruling is binding on the canola buyer and farmer. That service, referred to as “subject to inspector’s grade and dockage,” also costs $24.40, plus GST.
“When a sample is being graded at the elevator, dockage assessment should not be a mystery,” Hermanson said. “Producers have the right, under the Canada Grain Regulations, to ask to observe the elevator operator assessing grade and dockage.”
Farmers should print out the CGC’s procedures for determining dockage, take it to their elevator and ask the buyer if he or she is following the rules, Rempel said.
“I would urge all Manitoba canola growers to do this,” he said.
“And as a matter of fact next week that’s exactly what I’m going to do and then I will ask them to show me the method they’ve used to calculate the dockage to see if they are indeed following grain commission guidelines.”
For smaller farmers getting the CGC to determine the dockage might be a wash given the cost, but for bigger farmers it probably would pay, Rempel said. In Rempel’s case, the extra two per cent is costing him 28 cents a bushel on $14-a-bushel canola. That’s $154 on every load he delivers.
“At the end of the day that costs me the opportunity to take out my wife for a steak dinner,” he said.
In 2012, 12,998 Manitoba farms insured almost 3.5 million acres of canola with an average yield of 27 bushels an acre. If they all, on average, suffered one per cent in unjustified dockage they’d be out more than $13 million assuming they sold canola at $14 a bushel. Even if the average price was $10 that’s $9.45 million less for farmers.