Grain commission kicks off wheat class consultations

Proposes tighter specifications for CWRS and CPSR and creating a new class for weaker U.S. wheats such as Faller

Canada’s wheat class system could get a major overhaul, including the addition of a new class for lower-gluten-strength American varieties such as Faller

The Canadian Grain Commission has issued a discussion paper and wants public comment by April 20 on its proposals, which include tightening the quality specifications for the CWRS, CPSR and Canada Western General Purpose (CWGP) classes. The discussion paper is available on the CGC website.

The review also includes Eastern Canada’s wheat classes.

The paper says Canada’s wheat class system helps ensure quality control for end-users, but there have been a lot of changes in Western Canada’s wheat industry, starting with the elimination of kernel visual distinguishability in 2008. That policy required the seeds of new wheats look like others in the same class so inspectors could segregate by appearance. (Now farmers must declare the class of wheat they are delivering to a buyer.) Also, the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk in 2012 meant more flexibility between buyer and seller.

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In 2012, Canadian customers complained about low gluten strength in CWRS. An investigation determined the problem was a combination of unusual weather and low gluten strength in the three varieties representing 33 per cent of Prairie wheat crop.

Meanwhile, farmers are growing more unregistered wheats, including U.S. varieties. Since some grain companies have special contracts to buy these wheats, that “may indicate a demand for alternative varieties,” the paper says. “Producers are increasingly willing to grow these high-yielding varieties. This raises questions about balancing emerging demands with the need to protect existing markets and customer needs.”

Several years ago some in the grain industry proposed the CPSR class be modified to include U.S. Dark Northern Spring wheats such as Faller. Some worry adding a new class will add cost.

Check CWRS varieties

To protect the milling and baking reputation of CWRS, the CGC proposes changing the check varieties used to measure the quality of new class entrants.

“Glenn will serve as the upper limit of gluten strength, Carberry as the minimum value, Teal as the moderate-high, and BW971 as the moderate-low check variety for gluten strength (in the central and western bread wheat trials),” the paper says.

“Candidate cultivars exhibiting gluten strength below Carberry will be removed from the CWRS class and assigned to another wheat class. Candidate cultivars exhibiting gluten strength above Glenn will also be assigned to another wheat class.”

The CGC would also review all the varieties in the CWRS and CPSR class and transfer those that don’t meet the specifications to other classes.

The CGC says the CWGP class, which was created for high-yielding wheats suitable for livestock feed or ethanol production, has become a catchall, including some wheats used in milling and baking. It would transfer inappropriate varieties to other classes.

The paper hints the Canada Western Extra Strong class might disappear, noting no new varieties are in trials and the quality specifications overlap with CPSR. The same applies to the Canada Prairie Spring White class, which can be covered off by the Canada Western Hard White Spring class.

System needed

The class system is not about to be scrapped because it helps Canada compete, CGC chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson said in an interview.

“If we’re just selling it on price and availability… we’re going to be beat out by countries that have lower labour costs and have shorter distances to transport grain,” he said.

“So we have to get these other things right. We won’t make these changes without consulting our stakeholders.”

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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