Unlikely partners NFU and Wheat Growers join forces to call for halt to grain grading changes

Two farm groups that generally have opposing views on many agriculture policy files have joined forces in calling on the Canadian Grain Commission to halt changes to grain grading that are set to take effect on August 1, 2023.

The National Farmers Union and the Wheat Growers Association (previously known as the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association) sent a joint letter to new federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay on Wednesday, asking him to halt the CGC’s plan to extend the test weight standards used for grain at export terminals to farmer deliveries at primary grain elevators.

Hard red spring wheat at export terminals must weigh at least 63.3 lb/bushel to meet #1 grade, while the standard at country elevators is 60.1 lb/bushel. As part of the CGC’s ongoing effort to modernize grain grading, it announced it plans to harmonize the rules under the export standard for most spring wheat classes as of August 1.

“The National Farmers Union and the Wheat Growers Association disagree on many policy matters, but we are united in our opposition to the harmonization of primary and export standards for wheat until further clarifying evidence of the impact on farmers and customers of Canadian grain is done, as was moved and passed by the CGC’s Western Standards Committee at their April 4 meeting,” the letter states.

The change to the test weight standard would result in downgrading of some wheat that currently qualifies for the top grade.

“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 CGC come into effect as planned,” explains Daryl Fransoo, WGA chair.

Grain companies have traditionally blended grain to meet the slightly higher export test weight standard at port.

“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,” notes Terry Boehm, former NFU president. “The new CGC grade standard change will take money from farmers pockets.”

The unlikely partners are asking MacAulay to at least postpone the changes until the impact to all stakeholders has been presented to the Western Standards Committee.

The list of farm groups calling on the CGC and government to halt the changes also includes the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).

Related: APAS and Sask Wheat asking for a halt to proposed harmonized test weight standard

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