The Ultimate Game of Quinclorac Chicken



Did you ever play a game of chicken as a kid? You know the game where you and a buddy ride your bikes full speed at each other and the first one to bail off the collision path is the chicken. Its truly a silly game that lacks true skills of intelligence or strategy but rewards the behavior of recklessness.

What started as the Canola Council being proactive to warn growers about not disturbing exports to China has evolved into the ultimate game of quinclorac chicken.

In any game of chicken you have two sides barrelling towards each other insisting that the other will blink first.

The participants in our game of quinclorac chicken are Great Northern Growers (GNG) versus the Canola Council of Canada and its stakeholders. GNG is the small Saskatoon-based company selling the herbicide with quinclorac as its active ingredient under the brand name Clever. Like any game of chicken each side has an entourage whose main role is to cheer and help maintain their participants courage as they each speed towards each other at a ferocious pace.

GNG’s entourage of encouragement includes some growers that want to be able to use quinclorac to alleviate their cleaver problem. Some of these growers believe that quinclorac-treated canola will find a buyer or market because the free market hand of Adam Smith is a wonderful powerful thing.

Also in the GNG entourage is the former federal agriculture minister and now official opposition Trade Critic, Gerry Ritz. You can listen to Gerry’s passionate questioning of the “oxymoronic Canola Council stance” by clicking here.  Gerry is critical of the Canola Council because many products do not have MRLs (maximum residue limits) in China.

In the Canola Council’s entourage are growers that believe if there is any threat to the canola export market, the industry should be cautious to not jeopardize a 20 million acre crop.

Also in the Canola Council’s entourage is the Western Grain Elevator Association and its members — the main grain companies who actually sell the canola into export markets. Wade Sobkowich has been emphatic that its membership will not be buying any quinclorac treated canola and will make delivering farmers sign a waiver. The WGEA, COPA and Canola Council acknowledge that many products do not have MRLs in China, but quinclorac has a residue which makes it different.

Clearly we have two sides that disagree. The Canola Council and grain companies are saying that due to the fact quinclorac does not have a MRL in China and carries a residue, growers need to exercise caution and attempt to deal with in-field cleaver issues in other ways than Clever. GNG is emphatic that it is being picked on by Council and its members. GNG has claimed publicly that at least 300,000 acres of the product has been sold. Several provincial canola farmer board members were personally lobbied at the Canola Council convention in March to influence council to take a more farmer-friendly position.  Many farmers are behind Canola Council’s position and believe not using quinclorac is the farmer friendly position.

The game of quinclorac chicken is on. VROOM VROOM.

Who will back down first? Will either side back down? Will this small group of farmers be cautious or insist the Canola Council is bluffing? Do the Canola Council and grain companies actually have anything to gain from telling farmers to not use a product with an active that’s off patent? Will grain companies hold their position and not take quinclorac regardless of how many acres you farm or your prior history? Will farmers fill out the waiver honestly? Are we willing to risk access to a gigantic market like China over 300,000 acres? If China does reject shipments or the entire market due to traces of quinclorac, do individual growers understand the liability they are assuming?

As these two sides barrel down on each other decision day is coming fast. Ultimately, the farmers with the Clever (quinclorac) in their sheds will decide. Do I spray or not? It’s gut check time. Don’t worry, its only a 20 million acre crop, historically the most profitable crop, and involves China, our largest and most unpredictable customer. In games of chicken there is raised heartbeats, sweaty palms, stomach butterfly’s, and broken pride. Someone will have to blink.  Just who will it be?


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