Grain commission defended

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With the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly soon to disappear there’s talk of overhauling Canada’s quality-control system, which begs the question: is the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) still needed?

“The short answer is yes, there is a need for the grain commission,” chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson said in an interview March 1.

“If anything I think we’re even more needed. We’re a bit of an island of stability in a shifting industry. There will be new entities marketing wheat and barley and it’s good that the commission is the constant that licenses those people so they have to abide by certain rules and protect producers and so the grading is consistent. I think that underscores the need for the CGC.”

Critics say Canada produces Lincoln wheat for a world that wants more Fords. Hermanson says Canada can provide both, and grading and quality control don’t get in the way.

“Customers prefer the Canadian grading system, not necessarily because we have the Lincolns, but simply because we’re the reliable suppliers,” he said. “If it’s No. 4 CWRS we’re selling, it has the same quality year after year after year. There’s a consistency that’s an advantage to Canada in the marketplace.”

Canada’s grading system isn’t static as some assume. It’s adjusted to meet farmer and end user needs by the Grain Standards Committee, which is made up of farm, grain company and commission representatives, Hermanson said.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to throw out our grading system because quite frankly if you place it side by side with the American system I would argue that ours is a better system,” he said.

“We’re not unique or have some onerous grading system that the rest of the world is shocked about. In fact a lot of times the rest of the world is envious and our customers appreciate what we have.”

The grading system is also flexible, allowing companies to sell based on customer specifications, such as moisture, protein or falling number, Hermanson said.

Canada’s wheat-classification system also serves farmers and end-users well, he said. If American varieties, after two or three years of testing, meet Canadian agronomic, disease and end-use standards they can be registered and grown here, he said.

“It’s not like the door is barred to that opportunity,” he said. “It’s just a matter of seeing if it fits our environment.”

Most other grain-exporting countries have grading systems and quality control, Hermanson said. They’re needed to be competitive.

“Australia has been strengthening its grain-quality assurance through Grain Quality Australia,” he added. “There had been a of gap when they lost the Australian Wheat Board, which was responsible for a lot of grain-quality assurance.”

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