Grading rules draw U.S. ire

NEW ORLEANS, La. — American wheat farmers are fed up with how long it is taking to change Canadian grain grading rules.

Canadian wheat is graded and treated no differently than wheat that originates in the United States when it moves south.

But U.S. wheat that comes north is automatically assigned a feed grade, even when it is a registered Canadian variety.

Gordon Stoner, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, farms in Montana near the Canadian border directly south of Regina.

He grows Canadian durum varieties and occasionally wants to sell his wheat in Canada.

“I take my wheat across the line and it’s called garbage,” he told reporters during Commodity Classic 2016.

Stoner would like to be able to drop off his wheat at a grain elevator near Belle Plaine, Sask., pick up a load of fertilizer at the Yara International plant and return home.

“I very much would like access. We’ve got Canadian rail just across the line. Often times their freight rates are a little lower,” he said.

Stoner said it is no different than country-of-origin labelling legislation in the U.S., which caused so much consternation amongst Canadian hog and cattle producers.

“The Canadians have heard us. They are working on it, but it has been a very slow process,” he said.

The issue was going to be addressed in Bill C-48, which was designed to modernize the Canadian Grain Commission and amend the Canada Grain Act.

However, the bill was derailed by last year’s federal election.

Spokesperson Remi Gosselin said the commission is talking with the new Liberal government about how to improve the Canada Grain Act.

Many of the issues being discussed are the same as those contained in Bill C-48. He said he doesn’t know if the Liberals will dust off Bill C-48.

“It had general support in the House of Commons. I think that all parties supported the reforms. There was no major opposition to it,” said Gosselin.

The bill would ensure U.S. grain would be graded the same way as Canadian grain as long as it was a variety registered in Canada.

U.S. farmers can still sell their grain in Canada as long as it is purchased on spec by a primary elevator. However, Gosselin said Canadian grain grades cannot be used in the transaction.

Stoner doesn’t believe a lot of U.S. grain would flood across the border once the inequity issue is resolved. It would likely come from a corridor stretching 160 kilometres south of the border.

“Do I expect to sell a lot of wheat in Canada? Probably not,” he said.

“But at the same time, I become pretty angry when I drive across the line and it’s called feed and it’s a Canadian variety, and that imaginary 49th parallel somehow changes that wheat.”

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