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NFU feels changes to Bill C-48 could negatively affect grain farmers

NFU takes on proposed changes to Bill C-48 that could affect farmers.

Proposals in Bill C-48, an act aimed at amending the Canada Grain Act, could create challenges for grain producers seeking help from the Canadian Grain Commission, says the National Farmer’s Union (NFU).

The proposed changes adjust the wording of the CGC’s mandate that Terry Boehm, chair of the NFU Seed and Trade Committee, states would hurt producers in the event of a dispute over grain.

He said in a press release that, “it would allow government to end the bond security system that now pays farmers if a licensed grain company defaults and it would create room for political interference.”

Boehm adds that Bill C-48 would introduce a government run insurance-based payment protection system, which would not be as reliable as the current bond system and would make feed mill licensing more complex.

Elwin Hermanson, chief commissioner of the CGC, feels there are some inaccuracies in the NFU statement.

Changes to Bill C-48 clarify the role of the CGC, explained Hermanson. He feels it has become outdated. He added there is little change to feed mills licensing. “We have no power over the feed mills.”

The NFU is concerned that proposed changes to the mandate stating the CGC should act “in the interests of Canadians and grain producers,” would remove the commission’s obligation to protect farmer’s interests. Hermanson said that is still true now but the CGC needs to be free to make decisions.

“In fact, we have a lot of roles for stakeholders where we have to be an unbiased, arms length regulator and we can’t favour anyone,” said Hermanson.

He said when looking at grain, the CGC will grade it as accurately as possible. “The outcome could benefit either the producer or the buyer.”

Proposed changes would create more protection to producers than the CGC has in place now, he added.

Proposed changes to Canada’s wheat classes

Another concern expressed by the NFU is the proposal to add a wheat class that has a lower-protein milling wheat class.

The proposed addition of a lower-protein wheat class is similar to American Dark North Spring Wheat, which Scott suggests would make differentiating U.S. and Canadian wheat problematic in the export market.

Hermanson said the CGC proposed to “tighten up” the qualifications of Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) and the Canadian Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) class of wheat to ensure quality control.

“The gluten strength, particularly the CWRS, had become too low for customers,” explained Hermanson.

Consultations with stakeholders showed near unanimous agreement in pushing to strengthen the protein in those grain classes, added Hermanson. The CGC has suggested a new permanent class that is similar to new, low protein wheat varieties.

“If we don’t create a class it would have no home other than feed,” he suggested.

Hermanson says yield does tend to be higher for these lower protein varieties and some producers may decide to go that route. However, the price per ton would not be as high as the CWRS variety of grain.

There are already interim registrations of some wheat varieties, he added, referring to recent decisions by the Prairie Grain Development Committee. The CGC does not control what the committee does, said Hermanson.

He added that there is still some discussion over whether the proposed wheat class addition will need to be identity preserved, which tracks and segregates grains.

If there is no new class then that would not need to occur and Hermanson says the CGC is open to stakeholder feedback.

The NFU’s concern is that this new grain class will affect Canada’s grain reputation in the export market.

“Canada’s comparative advantage in wheat exports has been quality, namely high protein levels,” stated Scott.

Hermanson said during public consultations the CGC received more than 40 official submissions from a variety of groups such as farmers and processors.