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No KVD good and bad for seed growers

“There were always a few slipping in – some on purpose, some not on purpose – and we didn’t see mass prosecutions and farmers being thrown in jail because of it.”

– Elwin Hermanson

The elimination of KVD (kernel visual distinguishability) could be a double-edged sword for seed growers.

Since farmers now must declare they are delivering registered wheat varieties to the appropriate class, more are expected to buy pedigreed seed, Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson told the Seed Expo here Dec. 10.

But given the increased liability farmers face, seed growers will be under more pressure to back up the purity of their seed, he said.

“If your record keeping (as a seed grower) is a little loose you might want to tighten it up because there is likely to be more scrutiny and I would expect producers to start asking for more documentation,” Hermanson said.

Under KVD, each of Western Canada’s eight wheat classes had its own distinct kernel shape and/or colour – making segregation cheap and effective. But Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz scrapped it Aug. 1 with the hope it will be easier for plant breeders to develop higher-yielding wheats for ethanol and livestock production. (The new General Purpose wheat class was established for just that purpose. GP varieties still have to meet prescribed agronomic and disease standards but no milling standards.)

Should a farmer intentionally or accidentally deliver an unregistered, or de-registered wheat, or deliver a registered wheat into the wrong class, he or she could be found financially liable for losses due to downgrading.

The loss of KVD also revealed the importance of giving seed growers and farmers more advance warning before de-registering a wheat, Hermanson said. (See sidebar)

Although the elimination of KVD puts the onus on farmers to know what they’re delivering and makes them potentially liable for misrepresented deliveries, Hermanson said he doesn’t believe farmers will lose their farms when problems arise.

“Actually we think there’s more scrutiny now and farmers are being more cautious than they were before so it has probably strengthened, at least in the short term, the integrity of our system,” he said.

When KVD was in place farmers could also be held liable for delivering ineligible varieties of wheat.

“There were always a few slipping in – some on purpose, some not on purpose – and we didn’t see mass prosecutions and farmers being thrown in jail because of it,” Hermanson said.

In an interview, Wawanesaarea seed grower Warren Ellis said without KVD he sees more potential for mistakes by farmers and seed growers. With KVD, if one class of wheat was dumped into a bin of another the error was visible, he said.

Several seed growers said they are skeptical about at least some farmers’ awareness of what they’re growing or even the seriousness of declarations. One, who asked not to be named, said he’s had calls from customers asking what variety they’re growing. Wheat delivered by farmers who don’t sign a declaration is automatically graded feed. Some farmers are signing whether they know what variety or class of wheat they have or not.

Work continues to develop a so-called “black box” to provide a fast and cheap driveway test for wheat as it enters the elevator, Hermanson said. Meantime, the CGC, via advertising, is telling farmers they need to deliver only registered wheats into the right class.

“It’s important that they carefully store and track their harvest…” Hermanson said. [email protected]

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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