Resolving grain-grading disputes

Differences of opinion between grain merchants and producers can usually be resolved without difficult confrontations by using the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC)’s Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage service.

“The 2008 growing season was cool and crops generally were late maturing. Rain and frost in late August and early September could affect crop quality and minor grade variations on delivered products can have dramatic effects on a producer’s bottom line,” says Doon Pauly, crop specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Stettler. “To keep profits from eroding, producers need to ensure that grain deliveries are graded accurately and that they are receiving fair market value for the products they are selling.”

In Canada, grain grading is by visual characteristics and is both “science” and “art.” The Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) Official Grain Grading Guide has published standards of factors that are to be observed, counted, or weighed as the “science” of grain grading. How an individual judges subtle variations in colour, texture, smell and appearance of grains is the “art” or interpretive aspect of grain grading.

“Differences of opinion sometimes occur between producers and grain merchants because of this “art” in grade determination,” says Pauly. “When this occurs on delivered grain, the producer has the right to ask for a binding decision from the CGC on both grade and dockage. The producer is then paid according to the CGC’s grading of the sample. This service is known as Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage and applies to all grains under the Canada Grain Act (includes wheat, barley, canola, peas, oats, flax and other grains) that are delivered to licensed primary elevators.”

The following rules must be fully met to qualify for Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage:

an interim elevator receipt must be issued for the delivered grain

a portion (at least 750 g) of delivered grain taken from a representative subsample is placed in a container that will maintain the integrity of the grain

the container is labeled Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage the CGC form, Request for Grain Inspection Certification, is completed in full

the CGC will invoice the elevator for the costs of this service with either the elevator or the producer paying the fees.

“Realistically, to use Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage to resolve grading disagreements, the process has to be initiated when grain is delivered,” says Pauly. “It will be virtually impossible to meet the CGC’s requirements after the fact.”

When a third party is hauling grain it is important to have an arrangement with the elevator so the producer is informed at the time of delivery if grade and dockage vary from agreed standards.

“Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage is a tool for both farmers and elevators for resolving grading disagreements,” says Pauly. “However, the tool needs to be used appropriately.”

For additional information on CGC grading services and other programs visit its website www.grainscanada.caor call their Alberta Service Centre in Calgary 403-292-4211.

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