Farmers want say as Canadian Grain Commission fees soar

Canadian Federation of Agriculture says farmers should have a voice in running the agency as they will be paying for 90 per cent of its budget

The federal government has sharply increased inspection fees charged by the Canadian Grain Commission, but is ignoring calls to give farmers a say in the operation of the service they’re paying for, say national farm organizations.

A 5,000-acre farm growing crops for export will, on average, see inspection fees jump by 50 per cent to $12,000 in the next crop year, said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. While grain exports generate thousands of jobs in transportation, ports and other services that benefit the entire economy, the government is dumping all the cost increase on to producers, he charged.

Bonnett and others argue Ottawa should cover 20 per cent of the commission’s budget, double what it plans to pay. If not, farmers should have a say in how the agency is operated.

“We don’t see how we will get any real improvement in service for all the extra cost for farmers,” said Bonnett. “We want to explore the possibility of cost savings through the use of new technology. We want to see some emphasis on that.”

Calls for changes to the commission “have fallen on deaf ears,” said Richard Phillips, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada.

“What we want to know is why we should be paying 90 per cent of the cost for the commission when it isn’t accountable to farmers,” he said.

At least one of the agency’s commissioners should be chosen from a slate of candidates nominated by farm groups, he said.

“That person would at least have to answer to us,” said Phillips. “We don’t want it run by political appointees. That way we have no control and no say.”

Elwin Hermanson, the current chief commissioner, is a former Reform MP.

Ottawa, which currently pays about half of the commission’s budget, has eliminated some of its functions such as inward inspection and weighing services. This and other changes will save $60 million in commission costs, it says.

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