Grain Commission changes loaded into feds’ omnibus bill

Changes to the Canadian Grain Commission’s mandate for grain inspection, and to its requirements securing grain handlers’ payments to farmers, have been tucked into the federal government’s latest omnibus budget bill.

The federal government’s previously proposed legislative overhauls to the Canada Grain Act were announced Thursday as Bill C-45, dubbed the Jobs and Growth Act, went through first reading in the House of Commons.

The amendments, according to a government release Thursday, "will streamline the operations of the CGC and eliminate redundant or unnecessary services, such as inward inspection, that are no longer required in a modern grain industry."

The amendments will also "improve" the CGC’s producer payment protection program by "creating the opportunity to move to a new insurance-based system, where licensing costs may be reduced and protection coverage improved."

Specifically, C-45 pulls the requirement for inward inspection and weighing of grains by the CGC at terminal and transfer elevators.

"These inspection services are no longer required in a business environment where the Prairie grain elevator is often shipping the grain to a terminal or transfer elevator owned by the same company," the government said.

In situations where that’s not the case, a shipper or an elevator will still be able to request an inspection, but under C-45, such an inspection would be handled by "a service provider authorized by the CGC," the government said.

The CGC thus "would be the final decision-making authority for inspection services provided by the private sector."

The government said its proposed changes will save the grain sector $20 million per year in "unnecessary weighing and inspection fees" ultimately borne by grain companies and grain growers.

However, the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, a Prairie farmer group opposed to deregulation of the single marketing desk system for wheat and barley, claimed Monday the government’s plan means "contaminated shipments may not be caught until they arrive at a customer’s unloading facility."

The proposed change, the CWBA said, would "greatly increas(e) the cost of mistakes and the risk of damaging our reputation for pure grain."

Furthermore, the group said, if the current requirement for grain buyers to be bonded to cover their obligations to farmers is replaced with an insurance model, the new system "will cost farmers more and give an unfair advantage to already-established companies with deep pockets."

The government on Thursday also noted the CGC will move forward on previously-announced user fee increases, noting the commission "has not raised its fees in more than 20 years."

The commission "very shortly" will launch a new round of user fee consultations in which growers and other industry stakeholders "will have an opportunity to comment on the CGC’s fee levels and service standards."

The proposed new fees, "even though they will represent an increase relative to what is paid today," will reflect "a more streamlined CGC," the government added.

Related stories:
Feds move again on "modernizing" Grain Commission, March 9, 2012
Farmers, industry wary of proposed CGC fee hikes: MCO, Feb. 12, 2011
CGC security to remain pending other ideas: Ritz, March 26, 2009
Feds to scrap bond requirement for grain companies, Dec. 14, 2007

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