New grain commission fees, structure pass House easily 


Change controversial Despite easy passage, critics suggest that legislation would have benefited from more time and witnesses

Significant changes to Canadian Grain Commission rules and responsibilities slipped through the House of Commons agriculture committee last week with little debate or controversy.


The proposals, which will lead to reduced inspection, an end to in-ward inspection of grain moving between inland terminals and export facilities and tens of millions of dollars in increased farmer user fees, were included in a mammoth budget bill C-45, that initially included little opportunity for detailed study.


The current system of grain trader bonding to cover potential losses for farmers if grain companies go bankrupt before producers are paid would be changed to an insurance system.


The government compromised and agreed to send detailed proposals in the budget bill, including agricultural ones, to appropriate House committees for study.


However, the agriculture committee spent less than two hours reviewing the most significant changes in grain commission rules in two decades and produced little chance for MP input.


Witnesses invited to speak at the short session largely supported the proposed changes.


Grain commission officials spoke, followed by Pulse Canada and Canadian Special Crops Association official Gordon Bacon, Canadian Federation of Agriculture vice-president Humphrey Banack and Canadian Canola Growers Association general manager Richard White.


The agriculture-related portions of the budget bill were then sent back to the finance committee for final approval.


Chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson linked changes to the grain commission with the end of the CWB monopoly this summer.


“We are at a pivotal time in the grain sector, when public policies and regulatory structures need to keep pace with the rapid changes that we see in the marketplace,” he said.


”Modernization of the grain sector is an important priority for this government and modernization began on Aug. 1 of this year with the removal of the Canadian Wheat Board single desk monopoly for wheat and barley.”


Hermanson said many players in the grain industry “feel that the grain sector needs a revised Canada Grain Act to remain modern, competitive and profitable.”


However, opposition MPs, including New Democrat Niki Ashton from Churchill, Man., complained that few witnesses were able to appear at the committee hearing, including representatives of Churchill and Winnipeg, where jobs will be lost by CGC downsizing.


NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said in a later interview that witness lists seemed directed to supporting government changes. 


“With such limited time, there really isn’t a chance to get different voices before the committee,” he said.

  • John Smith

    The agricultural committee did not make any attempt to schedule or listen to those who have concerns about the modernization of the Canada Grain Act. It only allowed pro modernization organizations and individuals to speak which makes me wonder what was the point of setting of the committee in the first place. If the Conservative government was truly operating in the best interest of farmers and those involved in the grain industry, it would have allowed all parties affected an opportunity to speak infront of the committee. The modernization of the Canada Grain Act is nothing more then a way for Minister Ritz to reward the big players in the grain industry who have supported the Conservative government. There is nothing in it for the farmers; the changes will cost them more in way of fees and they will lose protection from the unfair practises of the big grain companies.

  • Ronald

    This move by the government and Gerry Ritz will without a doubt set the Canadian grain industry back 100 years.
    Back to the time when short-changing producers and customers was the norm.

    The modernized CGC will be impotent and costly for all those involved in the grain trade. Lesser service and fewer options will be offered at much higher prices-fees. How anyone can view these changes as progress, is beyond me.