Today, the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Wheat Growers Association (WGA) sent a joint letter to federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAuley asking him to halt the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) decision to impose export grade standards on wheat delivered to country elevators. The new rule will have a massive and long-term negative impact on prairie wheat farmers’ incomes. Calling this a heavy-handed move, both organizations demand the change be stopped, at least until the full impacts on all stakeholders are presented to the CGC’s Western Standards Committee.
The NFU and WGA disagree on many policy matters but are united in their opposition to the decision to harmonize of primary and export standards for wheat.
In spite of opposition from virtually all the farmers on the CGC’s Western Standards Committee, the CGC has decided to ‘harmonize’ primary and export standards for wheat as of August 1, 2023. The Western Standards Committee includes members of both the NFU and the WGA.
“When a farmer brings their grain to the elevator, there are several different measurements taken in order to grade it,” explained the NFU’s Glenn Tait, who sits on the Western Standards Committee. “These measurements include bushel weight, number of wheat kernels of other classes, total foreign material, and so on. Grades reflect quality, and largely determine the prices paid to farmers. Grades are regulated by the CGC to uphold Canada’s grain quality standards in export markets.”
“Farmers across the prairies will soon be harvesting wheat that under the current rules would be graded as #1, but as of August 1, 2023 they will be forced to sell it at lower prices as a #2 instead, if the changes set by the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) come into effect as planned,” explained Daryl Fransoo, WGA Chair.
The new harmonized test weight standard means that CWRS wheat (hard red spring wheat used for baking bread) must weigh at least 63.3 lbs/bushel when delivered to the elevator instead of the current standard of 60.1 lbs/bushel or it will be downgraded to a #2.
Currently, the benchmarks for country elevator grades are slightly lower than the official export grades for bulk wheat when it is loaded onto ships.
“Due to variations in growing conditions, and thus for wheat crop quality across the prairies, loads that grade #1 under current rules often exceed the minimum standards, allowing grain companies to blend country deliveries to ensure the export standard is met when they assemble shipments at their port terminals,” noted Terry Boehm, former NFU President. “The new CGC grade standard change will take money from farmers pockets.”
The CGC is adamant about their move to “harmonize” country elevator and export grading standards, but has been unable to provide historic cost-benefit analysis on the impacts of this change on either the producer or the grain handlers.
“We are particularly concerned with the Chief Commissioner’s remarks stating that the Western Standards Committee’s input is not binding on the CGC, and there was no indication that there would be any further review of the serious and legitimate concerns raised by producer representatives,” added Fransoo.
Producer members of the Western Standards Committee are active farmers who take time away from their operations to provide their insight on behalf of prairie farmers. It is not acceptable for the Committee to be used, as it appears in this case, as a means to rubber stamp a decision already made by the CGC.
Both the NFU and the WGA urge Minister MacAuley to put a halt to the impending grade standard change immediately.Click here to see more...