Canadian Grain Commission preparing for its next 100 years

Higher fees, outside inspectors, and mandate change in the works, 
and changes to wheat variety registration may follow

Major changes are coming to the Canadian Grain Commission.

“We’ve been around 100 years,” said CGC chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson. “If we want to be relevant for the next 100 years we have to make some changes to adapt to an industry that’s changing very quickly so we’re… providing the right services at that right cost.”

Legislation to significantly increase the commission’s fees effective Aug. 1, 2013 is expected soon, Hermanson said.

The federal government is also proposing to make inward grading and inspection at port terminals optional and when requested, carried out by non-CGC staff. The CGC would certify the outside inspectors.

Ottawa also wants to change the agency’s mandate from working in the interest of producers, to working in the interests of the grain industry — a change the National Farmers Union opposes.

Some are wondering if grain grading and wheat variety registration should change because the Canadian Wheat Board is losing its sales monopoly.

“We’re suggesting just because there’s changes don’t throw it out unless it’s not working in the new environment and we don’t see any reason why it can’t work effectively,” Hermanson said.

The commission usually follows grading recommendations from the grains standards committee, which represents all industry participants including farmers, he said.

“Grain grading can change and has changed, and can change at whatever speed the industry wants,” Hermanson said. “We don’t sit in our offices in Winnipeg and say, ‘We refuse to change and we’re going to stick with the status quo.’”

The wheat variety recommending committee also represents the industry and also includes experts in agronomy, disease and wheat quality.

“That has given Canada a good brand and a good reputation,” Hermanson said. “The concern with a lot of people is can we deal with things quickly enough?”

Making sure a new variety is well suited to Western Canada takes at least two or three years of testing, he said.

“But other than that, you can move pretty quickly if that’s the right thing to do,” he added.

The grain commission plays a vital role in assuring Canadian grains have access to international markets, Hermanson said. The commission’s Certificate Final, which guarantees the grade of Canadian grain loaded on a ship, assists in that. But sometimes customers raise concerns about such things as Ochratoxin A, a toxic mycotoxin that sometimes grows in stored grain, and selenium, an essential chemical element in plants, which can also be harmful in large quantities.

The commission also played a major role in dealing with genetically modified Triffid flax when it disrupted flax exports to Europe, Hermanson said.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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