The National Farmers Union (NFU) has launched a survey into grain-grading complaints from western farmers in the wake of what the farm group claims is “the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) reduced regulatory role.”
“As a grassroots farm organization the NFU is starting to hear repeated stories of grain farmers being dissatisfied with their treatment by elevator companies,” NFU president Jan Slomp said in a news release Mar. 8. “We are hearing stories that farmers are being baited to deliver their grain with good grades and then switched to lower grades when they get there…”
The online survey is at www.surveymonkey.com/r/NFU-Grain-2017.
“The CGC has not reduced its regulatory role as relates to grain-grading disputes at the primary elevator,” Remi Gosselin, the CGC’s manager of corporate information services said in an interview. “When producers disagree with the grade, dockage moisture or protein assessment they receive at delivery, they have a right to ask that a sample be sent to us at the Canadian Grain Commission for a binding decision. This service is an inspection Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage. Also, when a producer, or the person delivering for the producer, delivers grain to a licensed primary elevator, the producer or the person delivering grain has the right to ask to observe the operator assess grade and dockage. Finally, grades are based on samples. To ensure samples adequately reflect the entire lot of grain, proper sampling procedures must be used. We provide information on our website on how to take a representative sample.”
Farmer complaints about grain grading aren’t new, NFU Manitoba co-ordinator and Deleau, Man., farmer Ian Robson, said in an interview. The NFU wants to determine how widespread the complaints are and use the information to draw attention to the problem and seek solutions.
“We are hearing lots of stories about farmers’ treatment with grading at elevators,” Robson said. “We want to find out what the stories are. People don’t have to sign their names on the survey. We want them to express what their concerns are.”
Robson said he’s heard of farmers delivering three loads of grain, which received the agreed-to grade, only to have the last load downgraded even though it was from the same bin.
In another case a farmer agreed to sell his grain to a company graded last fall based on a sample, only to have three semis rejected.
The CGC was created in 1912 specially to deal with farmer complaints over their treatment by grain companies, Robson said.
“It is right there in black and white in the law,” he said. “People need to realize that agency works for farmers and it is there to keep the elevators in line. If they are fiddling with you on grades you have it there to settle any questions.”
While some farmers have said they are reluctant to complain to the CGC because it might damage their relationship with a buyer, Robson said it shouldn’t.
“We are not pointing fingers at elevator companies here,” he said. “We just want to make sure they are looking after things the way they should be.”
The NFU survey isn’t restricted just to grading problems this year, Robson added.
“There have been all kinds of situations in years past,” he said.
“There is no doubt this is a more difficult year with grades with how harvest went in some parts of the Prairies.”
For information on how to collect a representative sample, visit the CGC website.