Line up private field crop inspection services early

A 109-year-old system is changing in just 18 months and nobody knows how smoothly it will go

CSGA executive director Dale Adolphe.
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Seed growers should make arrangements early with the company they want to inspect their pedigreed seed crops this year.

“The key message is seed growers and (inspection) service providers need to be getting together over the next two to three months and nailing down the service agreement or arrangement for 2014,” Dale Adolphe, executive director of the Canadian Seed Growers Association, told the Manitoba Seed Growers Association’s annual meeting in Winnipeg Dec. 12.

It’s part of the move to privatize the field inspection of seed crops following federal government budget cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. CFIA staff used to do the inspections, but starting this year private inspectors will inspect more than a million acres of crops intended for pedigreed seed.

CFIA, which is still ultimately responsible for overseeing the inspections, will license inspectors and their employees and audit their work.

CFIA will also provide inspection services if a seed grower can’t hire a private inspector for some reason.

Start early. A 109-year-old system is changing in just 18 months and nobody knows how smoothly it will go. That’s why seed growers should start the process early, Adolphe said.

A list of authorized inspection companies is expected to be posted on the CSGA’s website this month.

Twenty-seven companies were listed as potential service providers on an unofficial list last month. It showed at least two or three providers serving almost every region of Canada, including seven available to Manitoba seed growers.

Adolphe recommends sending applications early to be sure the service provider will accept the application.

“Application deadlines (for inspection) become even more critical under alternative service delivery, particularly in those situations where you designate a service provider and that service provider rejects your designation.”

To encourage on-time applications, fines for late applications are being increased from $25 to $100.

The CSGA also wants to reduce paperwork and move to an electronic, web-based system, Adolphe said. Growers who fail to provide the CSGA with either an email address or fax number on their application forms will be fined $25.

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CSGA forms, which growers can fill out and submit online, or mail in, are also changing. There is now a separate membership form, plus growers must submit an application for each field they want inspected.

The CSGA will also start charging growers 1.5 per cent interest on overdue accounts.

“The reality is none of us know how it’s (privatization) going to work until we’ve got a year under our belt,” Adolphe said.

In the meantime, CSGA will work with growers, service providers and CFIA to fix problems that arise, he said.

It’s also unclear how much seed growers will have to pay for inspections. It’s almost certainly going to be more.

In the past Adolphe speculated that inspection fees could cost $4 an acre instead of 75 cents.

“It’s up to seed growers to negotiate the best deal possible,” he said.

The CSGA is the world’s largest seed certification agency, CSGA’s operations manager Doug Miller told the meeting.

Each year more than one million acres of seed crops are inspected across Canada during a four-month period, he said.

There are 14,000 to 18,000 crop inspections a year involving 2,000 different varieties, 52 crop kinds grown by around 3,500 seed growers.

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