Farmers can save themselves a lot of grief by planning and communicating better, say people involved with approving grain dryers in Manitoba.
Failing to plan and co-ordinate well can lead to delays, frustrations and costs.
“If you’re planning, start early,” said Brian Rempel of Manitoba Hydro, which has to approve and often construct the energy sources to power grain dryers many farmers install.
According to the inspection office that approves dryer installations, approvals are going much better this year. In 2019, slightly more than 50 grain dryers were approved, while about 59 dryers have already been approved this year, and inspection manager Neil Armstrong said he expects to see the 2020 total reach 100.
“2020 has been going along fantastically,” Armstrong said.
Manitoba farmers have had many problems getting dryers installed and approved. Armstrong and Rempel spoke to Keystone Agricultural Producers’ general council meeting Oct. 22.
Farmers have often complained that the Office of the Fire Commissioner, where inspectors used to be employed, was difficult and unco-operative.
The provincial government moved the inspection service into the municipal government department and response time and attitude have improved, some farmers say.
Armstrong said this year only two of the 59 inspections by Oct. 20 were denied until repairs could be done. A few others were approved with repairs allowed to follow inspection.
Getting natural gas service to grain dryers can be challenging and even impossible in some parts of Manitoba, Rempel said. While farmers might think the local infrastructure is adequate for their dryer’s demand, that might not be how a Hydro engineer would see it.
“We have to build enough infrastructure (for a) worst-case scenario,” said Rempel.
A big dryer can use as much gas as 500 houses.
“The requests for grain dryers are getting bigger and bigger.”
One recent dryer has the capacity to use 50 million BTUs.
“We have to see what kind of capacity we have,” said Rempel.
That makes early planning vital.
Armstrong said it’s no good to bring out an inspector if everything isn’t set up for approval.
“The fitter, the electrician, the producer — those guys have to be all together on everything,” said Armstrong.
Recently an inspector visited a farm for an approval but found the pipe hadn’t yet been connected. That led to a wasted trip, a frustrated farmer and an avoidable delay.
Rempel said farmers can help themselves by starting the planning early.
Armstrong said his office gets bogged down every time it has to deal with an indirect complaint, such as those that go to the agriculture department or to an MLA office.
Better to call him directly, Armstrong said. That way problems can be headed off early or sorted out more easily.
“Call. That’s the biggest thing,” said Armstrong.