The province hopes new resources and a new approach with the Office of the Fire Commissioner will help stem criticism on grain dryer setup.
The province announced changes to grain dryer approval procedure Jan. 22 after a wave of complaints from industry, equipment dealers and producers this fall.
Why it matters: Grain dryer installation drew widespread complaints this fall due to what critics say was too much red tape. Now the province says it is streamlining the process.
Grain dryer setup has been a long-standing issue in Manitoba, with critics arguing that the inspection process is slow, frustrating and, in the case of used grain dryers, may lead to prohibitively expensive changes compared to other provinces.
The issue came to a head this fall, after weeks of cold and wet weather put a halt to harvest through late September and early October and left producers scrambling for drying options.
Those considering used grain dryers, however, expressed frustration with getting the older machines approved, many of which were too old to have the required CSA 3.8 certification, and so required a field approval from an inspector.
“It just seems that there’s roadblock after roadblock on setting up a used dryer,” Newdale-area producer Andrew Dalgarno said at the time.
The producer later took his complaints to Manitoba Agriculture in a written letter.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from our farm families that changes need to be made,” Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler said.
The province has announced three major changes as part of the announcement. Inspections will now be managed under a central booking process. The Office of the Fire Commissioner will co-ordinate with Manitoba Hydro in the booking process, Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said, since the electrical aspect and any natural gas approvals fall to Manitoba Hydro. Pedersen is the minister responsible for the Office of the Fire Commissioner.
Producers will also have a 24-7 dryer inspection hotline from Aug. 15-Dec. 31 and inspectors will see expanded hours in the weekends and evenings during the same period. Pedersen says the hotline will help address any sudden issues with grain dryer installation or urgent calls, such as a reinspection after a fire.
“Producers must still ensure the installation is completed in compliance with the manufacturers’ installation instructions and Canadian Standards Association code requirements, and that all checks are completed prior to the inspection to avoid unnecessary delays,” the province said in a release.
Manitoba’s installation requirements will also get a side-by-side comparison with regulations in Saskatchewan. The province capped off its list of changes with a promise to harmonize regulations between Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Manitoba’s landscape for grain dryer setup became chief among this fall’s complaints, although industry has long argued that getting a used grain dryer approved in Manitoba is far more difficult than in other western provinces.
“There’s been a lot of talk about how the two provinces were treating the regulations, so we’re going to make sure that we’re harmonized with the way Saskatchewan does its dryer inspections and certifications,” Pedersen said.
One Manitoba equipment dealer, A.R.K. New-Tech, said it has stopped selling used grain dryers in Manitoba due to frustrations getting the machines approved by the Office of the Fire Commissioner. Those same machines are instead being sold to Saskatchewan and Alberta, the company said, although president Adrien Caillier claimed much of the difference lay with better communication between the equipment dealer and inspector in other provinces.
“I’m encouraging the farm families to take advantage of this during the off-season to plan and to get these dryers installed, to get them inspected,” Eichler said. “But, having said that, we know that everybody’s busy and finances come at a certain time… At the end of the day, we’re trying to streamline this, make it as safe and effective as we possibly can.”
The Office of the Fire Commissioner has also changed management, Pedersen said.
“He’s been very proactive in going out and talking to the dealers, the farmers; he’s been on-site; he’s been to Saskatchewan with the Office of the Fire Commissioner,” Pedersen said.
Among the complaints this fall, critics argued there was not enough interaction between inspector, dealer and farmer prior to inspection day.
The province says changes will start to be implemented immediately, and will be ready when demand for dryer setup picks up in 2019.
“We’re very much aware of the challenges that existed, but we’re very confident now that we can address these issues that have been raised,” Pedersen said.