Changes are coming to Western Canada’s milling wheat classes along with some additional study and more industry feedback, the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) announced May 8.
After consulting the grain sector earlier this year the CGC has decided to introduce a new interim milling wheat class to take effect Aug. 1 and continue until at least July 31, 2016. It could become permanent depending on the outcome of a study into the class’s market potential.
The CGC is also implementing its proposal to tighten the end-use specifications for wheats in the Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) classes.
The wheat class system review was promoted by customer complaints about Canadian wheat having weaker gluten strength than normal, the ending of the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing monopoly and interest among farmers for growing high yielding American milling wheats such as Faller and Prosper that don’t fit CWRS class specifications, CGC Chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson said in an interview last December.
The CGC proposed a new milling wheat class for lower protein, weaker gluten strength wheats, including Faller and Prosper. Both recently received a three-year interim registration allowing them to be commercialized without restriction.
The CGC also proposed moving weaker lower gluten strength wheats currently in the CWRS class — Lillian, Unity and Harvest — to the proposed new class. In the future new weaker gluten wheats developed in Canada and the United States could be added to the class.
The new class would give farmers more flexibility in what wheats they could grow. Moving weaker gluten varieties to that class, while tightening specifications for CWRS and CPSR would improve their quality and consistency, the CGC said.
While the grain industry generally supports improving the CWRS and CPSR classes, it wants more study on the proposed new wheat class. That’s why the new class was created on an interim basis, Daryl Beswitherick, the CGC’s program manager for quality assurance standards, said in an interview May 12.
“We’re hoping to get the results of the market scan being conducted by Cereals Canada and Cigi (Canadian International Grains Institute) back in a couple of months,” he said.
Besides Faller and Prosper the interim wheat class will be the home for their sister variety, Elgin-ND, after it receives a three-year interim registration expected soon.
Meanwhile, the CGC is writing the owners of the varieties currently in the CWRS and CPSR classes asking if they want them to remain in those classes. The CGC wants a reply back before the end of May. However, Lillian, Unity and Harvest will not be moved out of the CWRS class for at least two years, giving farmers, seed growers and marketers time to adjust.
The CGC is also asking owners of varieties in pre-registration trials if they intend to seek admission to a different class in light of tighter class specifications.
The CGC’s decision to study the interim class further reflects industry feedback, Dave Hatcher, the CGC’s program manager for Asian products, said in an interview May 8.
“We are responding to the industry’s request… (and) although some people were in favour of it, some were a little cautious (about creating a new class),” he said. “They wanted to know more about the market itself.”
Wheats grown in Western Canada are usually assigned a class making it easier for commerce.
Western Canada had eight milling classes. Each class has specific milling and baking characteristics. Varieties in the same class are commingled making grain handling more efficient, while preserving end-user quality. But since each class is segregated, it also adds cost.
The CGC has also proposed scrapping the Canada Western Extra Strong and CPS white classes. but no decision has been made on that, Hatcher said.
“Everybody that responded to us was very adamant in ensuring that CWRS and CPS red quality and consistency was protected,” Hatcher said.
The CGC will change the end-use quality “checks” new wheat varieties must match or surpass before being registered and assigned to a class, he said. The change should boost gluten strength in the CWRS class.
The grain industry generally supports the CGC’s approach.
“We want to make sure we are thoughtful about it because there are pros and cons to creating a new class,” said Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association. “One of the issues is creating more segregations for handling and the costs associated with that.”
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) supports studying the interim class’s market potential before making it permanent.
“Another option would be to simply allow companies to continue to buy these varieties on a spec basis, as is the case now…” WCWGA policy manager Blair Rutter said.
The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) wants the interim class studied further too, general manager Tom Steve said. The AWC supports tighter specifications for the CWRS and CPS classes, but not the proposed moving of Lillian and Unity to the new class. Time will correct the problem as farmers switch to other varieties, he said.
Keystone Agricultural Producers president Dan Mazier said KAP supports the interim class, but wants lots of advance notice before varieties are moved.
“I like how transparent the process has been,” he added.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) opposes creating a new class, arguing it will hurt Canada’s reputation for high quality wheat and only benefit multinational grain buyers and American seed companies.