Year in Review: Expect CGC to be under policy microscope in 2020

KAP doesn't want farmer protections or grain quality undermined

Expect more discussion about the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) role and the Canada Grain Act in 2020.

That could lead to legislative changes with implications for farmers, grain companies and Canada’s grain customers.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada started reviewing the CGC and the grain act last March.

“Ultimately our goal is to have a set of legislative proposals to include as part of the (agriculture) minister’s next mandate,” Michelle Bielik, director of AAFC’s crop and supply chain policy division, told Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) advisory council meeting in Portage la Prairie on April 2.

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The review will look at the CGC’s quality assurance program and ways to maintain it, Bielik said.

CGC governance will also be examined — something that has come up in previous reviews.

Grain companies want the grain act amended to end mandatory CGC outward inspection, replacing it with private inspectors overseen by the CGC.

The Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA), which represents Canada’s biggest grain companies, says mandatory CGC outward inspection is redundant and costly.

But some farmers say making the CGC’s ‘Certificate Final’ optional — a grade and weight guaranteed by the CGC, backed by the Canadian government — will undermine Canada’s grain quality assurance system.

Viterra CEO Kyle Jeworski argued in favour of ending mandatory CGC outward inspection when speaking March 6 at the Canadian Crops Convention in Montreal.

“I think it’s important that we have the Canada Grain Act to better reflect our industry today and prepare for the future,” he said. “We need to remove unnecessary regulations. There are many examples — grain grading, weighing, inspection. There are things that add cost and delays in our industry.”

The Alberta Wheat Commission wants to replace the CGC’s current visual grading system with specifications.

The WGEA says it currently buys grain from farmers based mainly on CGC grades and sells to customers mainly on specs.

Prairie general farm organizations are wary of changes to the act or the CGC.

The CGC was created in 1912 to operate “in the interest of producers,” after years of farmer complaints about grain company and railway power.

“The reasons why the CGC was invented in the first place we haven’t seen change,” Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan said in an interview March 21, 2019. “All those issues (are) still there.

“I don’t think there has ever been a more important time to ensure that the CGC is able to perform outward inspections and have that data and samples available.”

KAP president Bill Campbell agrees.

“KAP believes the grain commission has a huge role to play in protecting farmers in the industry,” he said.

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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