Grain moisture testers, scale readouts, grain sampling at elevators and protocols for cleaning out grain trucks, were discussed at the Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) online advisory council meeting Oct. 22.
Two of the four — moisture testers and truck cleanouts — were dealt with through resolutions.
KAP members unanimously passed a resolution to get the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) to mandate the 919/3.5-inch moisture tester as the standard instrument grain companies use to determine the moisture content of grain crops and that they be maintained and calibrated annually.
Why it matters: Bread-and-butter ways of doing business at local elevators are important to get right, to protect the interests of farmers.
Fisher Branch farmer Shannon Pyziak told the council the grain moisture content she comes up with is sometimes different from the elevator.
“And it’s significant, not point one or two difference,” she said. “We’re talking anywhere from one full (point) to 1-1/2 full, sometimes up to two (percentage points) in difference.”
Pyziak, who uses the 919/3.5-inch moisture tester, said she compared her results with neighbours and the results were within 0.1 and 0.2 point.
Even after getting her tester checked and calibrated it still was getting different results than some elevators. When Pyziak points that out to buyers they have accepted her results, she said.
“But it was costing literally thousands of dollars to our farm with the difference in moisture readings…” Pyziak said.
The 919/3.5-inch moisture tester, which most farmers use, had been used in elevators for decades, but now many companies, and the CGC, use the Unified Grain Moisture Algorithm (UGMA) moisture tester.
The CGC does not specify which tester farmers or companies should use, CGC spokesman Remi Gosselin said in an interview Oct. 26.
“Since 2015 we’ve (CGC) determined the moisture content of grain internally using UGMA moisture meters,” he said. “We work with all manufacturers of the 919s and UGMAs to monitor and maintain Canadian calibrations. Our calibrations apply to the 20 grains under the Canada Grain Act. Our annual work on calibrations of these two types of moisture meters doesn’t show a significant variance for the measurements using each instrument.”
In other words, if the testers are properly calibrated and operated, the results for the same grain should be similar, Gosselin agreed.
“If a producer disagrees with their moisture measurement they have a right to ask that a sample of their grain be sent to us (CGC) for a binding determination of grade and dockage,” he added. “And licensed elevators must comply with this request. To be clear, the binding determination of grade and dockage includes moisture measurements.”
Farmers need to ensure their testers are working properly and that they follow proper testing procedures, Gosselin said. That includes having grain temperatures of 11 to 30 C, he said.
The CGC is aware of KAP’s resolution and will respond to it, Gosselin added.
Farmers can learn more about moisture testing on the CGC website.
Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA), said he understands why farmers want everyone to use the same tester.
“If you want to ask the government to approve one technology over the other, is it going to approve, at the end of the day, the more accurate technology or the less accurate technology?” he said in an interview Oct. 26.
The UGMA is considered more accurate.
The right for a farmer to seek an official CGC grade if he or she doesn’t agree with the grain company’s, has been around for decades, but it’s harder for farmers to access.
That’s because often their grain is delivered by employees or commercial truckers. Pyziak wants the Canada Grain Act changed to reflect that change.
Now the sample to be sent to the CGC has to be taken when the grain is delivered — but the regulations don’t specify it must be retained.
“Not all grain companies are doing this, but that is their right to get rid of that sample as soon as we walk out the door,” she said.
“We need to develop some very specific guidelines for our producers to be able to deal with differences of opinion (on grades). And certainly we have the right to request at the time of delivery that a sample goes to the grain commission, but in all reality I am not going to expect my truck driver to do that.”
The WGEA doesn’t disagree, Sobkowich said in an interview later. Specifying how long a sample should be kept would be good for farmers and grain companies, he said. The WGEA suggests five working days.
The WGEA also wants the grain act reviewed. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada launched a review in early 2019, but since COVID-19 it’s unclear where the process is at, KAP president Bill Campbell told the meeting.
It’s mandatory that the weight of the grain farmers deliver to an elevator be visible at the time of delivery, Campbell said. KAP wants farmers to tell it where this is not the case. Several farmers provided immediate examples at the meeting, pointing to elevators in Fannystelle, Elm Creek and Binscarth.
Grain act regulations state: “The operator of a primary elevator shall afford to any person who delivers grain to the elevator full facilities to verify the correct weight of the grain while the grain is being weighed.”
However, COVID-19 has made that more challenging since non-elevator employees are not allowed in elevator offices, Gosselin said in an interview.
“We expect people to be flexible and exercise judgment in these unusual times,” he said. “We need to follow public health guidance and in some cases the equipment is not as modern as in other places. Both sides need to show some flexibility for this temporary situation.”
Making scale readouts is a work in pro-gress, Sobkowich said.
“While it hasn’t happened overnight, there is a move by the industry to make sure that monitors are visible to the farmer,” he said.
“The longer COVID stays they are realizing they have to make this adjustment.”
A resolution to lobby the Manitoba government to work with the grain industry “to find a solution to cleaning our commercial grain trucks and trailers after the delivery of grain” was passed unanimously by KAP.
Ideally trucks would be completely cleaned out when dumped at delivery, but often some is hung up and shakes down later only to be dumped on the side of the road or where the next load is being picked up. That’s an on-farm food safety and bio-security concern, Starbuck farmer Chuck Fossay told the meeting.
Foxwarren farmer George Graham said a local farmer was concerned when a trucker showed up with leftover American corn and wanted to dump it in his yard.
“From a biosecurity standpoint there are weeds in the U.S. that don’t exist up here,” Graham said.
“It would’ve been helpful if these trucks could’ve been cleaned out at the delivery point rather than the side of the road or a farmer’s yard. That seems to be what happens every day and it’s wrong.”
Fisher Branch farmer Paul Gregory, who is also in the forage seed business, warned importing American weeds like glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, would “decimate” Manitoba’s forage seed business.
Minto farmer Jake Ayre, who lives near the intersection of two major highways, said he often sees dumped grain along the highway, which attracts wildlife.
“The animals could run out on the road and cost someone very dearly,” he said.
Dumping leftover grain on elevator property is a food and biosecurity hazard there too, Sobkowich said later.
There are no easy solutions, Fossay said. KAP’s on-farm food safety committee has suggested farmers have a place for truckers to dump leftover grain and bury it later.
Pyziak rejected the idea.
“I don’t want it on my land,” she said.
Truckers should clean out at the time of delivery, Pyziak added.