Foreigners get handle on Canada’s grain

LA SALLE, Man. — Western Canada’s farming and grain industry can seem dry and dusty to people who spend decades in its midst, but to foreign visitors it can seem exotic.

The large scale of the farms, the extreme distances from port, the short growing season and the wide range of crop choices struck some members of the Canadian International Grains Institute’s International Grain Industry Program as peculiar. They visited Ernie Wiens’ farm south of Winnipeg July 20.

Others were trying to grasp how prairie farmers move between genetically modified and non-GM crops. Some weren’t sure about the difference between traditional industrial “rapeseed,” modern “canola,” and what some parts of the world still call “rapeseed.”

And a couple of hardcore international grain trading people seemed very interested in how this year’s crop is coming.

The visit was part of CIGI’s efforts to explain how Canada’s grain industry functions, from field to port.

It was obvious from the visitors’ questions that much interest still abounds about GM crops, both in practical terms about how they are rotated with non-GM crops and whether or not they are a controversial topic in Canada.

Crops like edible beans and flax also drew discussion, being small acreage crops that aren’t grown in too many places outside Canada.

Fertilizer, precipitation, harvesting order of cropsbrought queries.

It was a hot day by western Canadian standards, provoking a few comments from Canadian grain industry hosts with the tour, but for most of the foreign visitors the temperature was nothing new.

Like most features of Canada’s grain industry, the weather and growing conditions were a mix of quite different and somewhat similar for the visitors, and getting a sense of that mix is one of the goals of the program.

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