Farmers in the market for a used grain dryer say they are frustrated by a quagmire of red tape during a year when crops are already buried under snow and wetted by weeks of rain.
It’s a potentially hard hit for Andrew Dalgarno of Newdale, who said only about 15 per cent of his crop had been brought in by the first week of October. Like many farmers in his situation across the Prairies, Dalgarno had been looking for a used dryer earlier this fall, but quickly ran into problems.
The used Vertec dryer he found was a bargain on paper, he said, but inquiries to the gas company quickly revealed a morass of regulatory hoops if he decided to make the purchase. Dalgarno was told that it would be as or more expensive to bring a used dryer up to spec as it would be to buy new equipment.
Among those requirements were that the dryer had to be on a cement pad with approved stands to raise it off the ground.
Dryers are typically installed on cement due to their weight, a spokesperson from the province said, although that decision would be based on manufacturer requirements.
The stands stymied Dalgarno. There were no factory stands available for the old dryer in question, and Dalgarno was told that he would have to contact an engineer to design stands and get them approved.
“It just seems that there’s roadblock after roadblock on setting up a used dryer,” Dalgarno said.
“There’s lots of people out there driving antique cars and classic cars on the roads that don’t have airbags. They don’t have shoulder seatbelts, because they didn’t need them when they were manufactured. If that’s OK, what’s wrong with grain dryers?” he added.
The inconvenience and cost eventually turned Dalgarno away from the purchase. He settled for updating his electrical system to increase fan capacity, something that he hopes will be enough to safely store his crop with supplemental heat.
Dalgarno later took to Twitter with his frustration, prompting a wave of similar complaints.
“The way it is right now, there’s essentially no point in looking for a used grain dryer in Manitoba,” he said, although he noted that the process might be substantially easier for a dryer that is only two or three years old and more likely to meet the standard.
According to documents from the Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC), a grain dryer must bear a CSA 3.8 certification mark, or go through a field approval. Without that mark, the provincial body estimates setup time will double from two weeks to four weeks.
Farmers may still face that hassle with a used dryer, even if it bears the correct certification. The Office of the Fire Commissioner warns the mark may be invalid if the dryer has been altered or converted from propane to natural gas. If producers are unsure, the guide reads, they should arrange a visit from the OFC, “to determine what the options are to get the grain dryer operational.”
A certified dryer will also need field approval if that dryer is being combined into a new bin dryer system, since regulations require the unit as a whole to be marked at the CSA 3.8 standard.
The province says it recognizes the challenging conditions in Manitoba fields and is making efforts to help producers looking for drying capacity, such as the published dryer guide.
“Grain dryers are a priority for the gas inspection unit right now, and we are working closely with the equipment installers and licensed gas fitters to get the equipment started as quick as possible,” a spokesperson said by email.
The site visit will add another $1,053 to the price of the dryer, on top of any changes the inspection may require. Inspectors will make “every attempt” to arrange the visit within two weeks of the request, the OFC says.
Manitoba sales halted
The guide does little to ease the installation of a used dryer, says Adrien Caillier, president of A.R.K. New-Tech Ltd. The company supplies, services and installs dryers across Western Canada, but says it no longer sells used dryers in Manitoba due to certification issues.
“It’s almost hard for us to know exactly what we have to do,” he said. “There’s so much, not confusion, but there’s so much left to interpretation that it’s very difficult for us, so I can’t imagine a farmer who’s never dealt with that part of the process (dealing with it).”
The company has, likewise, started turning away farmers looking for advice in setting up a used dryer, something Caillier said they would normally offer, but that they currently feel unable to provide. Instead, he said, they are turning such requests back to the Office of the Fire Commissioner.
“That whole department is so in turmoil right now that there’s really no clear direction that we can give them,” he said, adding that the process of getting a used dryer certified is “kind of a nightmare.”
“Dryers that were approved in Manitoba suddenly aren’t as soon as you move them,” he said. “If a dryer has a CGA burner — which is a Canadian Gas Association burner that has a Manitoba Department of Labour approval sticker in the dryer panel, which was kind of the way it was done back in the year — when that dryer is moved to a new location, basically it’s got to get all recertified completely.”
Caillier said they have also noted an increase in the number of farmers looking for a dryer as the fall remains cold and wet.
Dalgarno has since petitioned the provincial government for change. He wrote letters to his local MLA, Manitoba Agriculture, the minister of agriculture and the premier’s office, arguing that guidelines should be streamlined, regulations should be different for a burner running a dryer versus one heating a building, and that old dryers and dryer systems should be grandfathered into regulations.
“To do something for this fall, it would take an absolute miracle,” he said.