U.S.-Canada wheat tensions already easing

At least four American spring milling wheats are registered in Canada now and more are expected in the future

The United States government and American wheat growers should put their beef with how Canada grades imported American wheat into context, says Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl.

“Very substantial changes have been made to the Canadian system in the last 10 years,” he said in an interview April 29. “It was almost impossible for varieties in the U.S. to be registered in Canada. With the removal of KVD (kernel visual distinguishability in 2008) and the opening up of the (new Canada Northern Hard Red) class, there are simply no barriers to having those varieties registered in Canada.”

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Dahl called the changes “really large and substantial” and said they were already facilitating more cross-border trade in wheat.

Faller, Prosper and Elgin ND are examples of those U.S. varieties that are fully registered in Canada and are becoming widely grown here. Changes to the Canadian marketing system which eliminated the wheat board also went a long way down the road to addressing U.S. concerns, he added.

Dalton Henry, U.S. Wheat Associates’ director of policy, agrees. While the U.S. sees Canada’s wheat registration system as “burdensome… and frustrating… the reality is the Canadian government has done a good job of streamlining that registration process over the last couple of years and we really welcome those changes,” he said in an interview.

“I think in the future you are going to see more varieties that are growing in the U.S. registered in Canada as this market becomes a little bit more integrated. But at the end of the day we recognize that Canada has legitimate reasons for wanting to operate a variety registration system and that fits with Canadian farmers’ marketing practices.”

U.S. Wheat Associates wants American wheat shipped to Canada to be graded in the same way Canadian wheat is, but also recognizes that Canadian grades only apply to wheats registered in Canada.

Registration requires three years of testing both in the field, and of functional attributes related to milling and baking. A committee of experts representing the wheat industry, including farmers, assesses the data. If the variety meets the agronomic, disease and quality standards for the intended class, a majority of committee members will vote to support the variety for registration. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency then registers the variety and it can be grown commercially.

In Canada this is viewed as integral to Canada’s wheat quality assurance system. It helps farmers and end-users by ensuring new varieties perform well for both.

Canada’s wheat registration system applies equally to wheats developed in Canada, the U.S. or elsewhere and Wheat Associates’ Henry acknowledged that.

Canadian farmers can grow unregistered varieties but must declare that when delivering to an elevator. And unregistered varieties — whether grown in Canada or the U.S. — automatically receive the lowest grade for the intended class.

When the wheat board was the only wheat seller in Western Canada, wheat prices were directly tied to class and grade. A No. 1 CWRS always earned more than feed and a No. 2 CWRS always earned more than a No. 2 Canada Prairie Spring. When the winter wheat CDC Falcon was moved from Canada Western Red Winter — a milling class — to Canada Western General purpose — its value instantly dropped, for example. That’s no longer the case in the open market where price is determined by the grain buyer and seller no matter the grade or class.

So now, following good growing conditions, some CDC Falcon is sold for milling instead of for livestock feed and the farmer is paid accordingly.

About the author

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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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