Know What You Grow – for Sep. 16, 2010

Farmers making their first deliveries to an elevator this fall will have to sign two declaration forms instead of the customary one.

Since 2006, producers have had to declare that the wheat they were delivering is eligible for the class to which it’s going. Now farmers are being asked to declare the non-wheat board crops they deliver are “eligible varieties for delivery for the commodity type of grain and/ or oilseed for which payment is being requested.”

It’s to ensure customers get the crops they want, said Wade Sobkowich, the executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association.

“We want people to know what they’re growing, and know what they are delivering and properly declare it,” he said. “It’s very important for us to do what we can to ensure we are preserving the integrity of the handling of this product and (to) make sure we’re providing customers with what they want and at the same time maximize the value back to the farmers.”

Often a grain company can segregate an ineligible crop variety and sell it to a specific customer so the farmer gets a fair return, Sobkowich said. That also ensures sales to other customers are not undermined.

CDC Triffid flax is a good example, he said. European Union flax buyers won’t accept flax containing 0.1 per cent CDC Triffid or more (see sidebar), but buyers in the United States and China will.

The declaration form is a legal document, in which a farmer agrees he or she is financially liable for damages, including a grain company’s legal fees, which result if they deliver an ineligible variety. The farmer can be held liable even if he or she didn’t purposefully misrepresent what they delivered.

Eligible varieties, listed by commodity type, can be found on the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ( www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/variet/regvare.

shtml). The form also lists the following varieties as ineligible: CDC Triffid (flax), and Westar-Oxy-235, Zodiac BX, Armor BX 295 BX and Hysyn 101RR (canola). These canola varieties are either genetically modified, have been deregistered, or have traits that are not approved in some importing countries.

Farmers need to be sure what varieties they grow, said Rob Brunel, vice-president of the Keystone Agricultural Producers and chair of its grains and oilseeds committee, adding grain buyers will accommodate farmers who want to deliver unregistered varieties if they receive advance warning.

“The penalties can be severe if you misdeclare,” he said. “You’re better off to declare what you’re growing (if it’s unregistered) and having it dealt with, instead of contaminating the system. The cost of contaminating a boatload of grain is pretty expensive.”

COMMON SEED

The new declaration shouldn’t necessarily discourage farmers from saving their own seed and growing it, especially when they originally purchased certified seed, Brunel said.

“Farm-saved seed is something farmers will not give up easily,” he said. “That’s an important right that we have and this isn’t going to erode it.”

But it could make some farmers less comfortable about buying common seed because the pedigree is not guaranteed.

“There’s an extra risk (with common seed), but I don’t know how big it will be,” Brunel said.

Although KAP was aware the new declaration was coming, Brunel said it’s unfortunate most farmers haven’t heard about it until now.

Elevator companies haven’t had many complaints because farmers understand the commercial importance, Sobkowich said.

“I think the Triffid situation brought a lot of attention to the damage that can be caused when you have ineligible varieties, and how that can have direct consequences between the farm and the marketplace,” he said.

The wheat-declaration form designed by the WGEA and the Canadian Wheat Board was introduced in 2006, partly to keep unregistered (and deregistered) varieties from eroding the quality of western Canadian wheat.

It was also seen as a potential replacement for kernel visual distinguishability (KVD) – a system that allowed grain handlers to visually segregate eight classes of western Canadian wheat.

The federal government killed KVD in 2008 – two years earlier than the grain industry had wanted. Effective Aug. 1 of that year, the Canadian Grain Commission made it compulsory for farmers to sign a declaration that the wheat they were delivering was eligible for the class to which it was being delivered. [email protected]

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Thepenaltiescan besevereifyou misdeclare.”

– ROB BRUNEL, KAP

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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