Besides the weather, the issue of falling number discounts is a major frustration this fall for farmers in Western Canada. As farmers started to deliver grain to the elevator this fall, some were finding out that their delivery contracts included discounts based on falling number. Many farmers are asking whether this is legal under the Canada Grains Act and why the Canadian Grain Commission is doing nothing about it.
The Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission Patti Miller says that, “if falling number discounts are a part of the grain contract you have signed with the grain company, then yes they can discount.”
Canada’s Western grain grading system is based on visual characteristics, meaning that how it looks is a proxy for the quality. Visual grading allows for grain to move through the bulk system at a low cost quickly, but as science and technology develops where you can measure actual quality of the grain at the point of delivery there is increasing pressure to modernize the system.
In the U.S. and Eastern Canada elevator point measurement of falling number is common. Last winter some farm groups were pushing for Western Canadian grain companies to implement the same style of quality measurement grading as in states such as Montana and North Dakota.
Last March there were consultations with the industry about whether or not it was time to measure DON and falling number at the point of delivery. According to Miller, the response from industry was that “the time was not right, as there were concerns on cost, the lack of speed, and variability in test results, so the decision was made to push the idea off.”
In terms of why the Canada Grain Commission has not stopped these practices of the grain companies, Miller says that, “because falling number is not a part of the statutory grading we do not have access to this tool for farmers.”
There has been talk of reforming the Canada Grain Act the past number of years, but questions still remain on where it fits into the list of priorities of for the current government. According to Miller the last major changes to act was 50 years ago. The recent mandate letter to Agriculture and Agri-food minister Marie-Claude Bibeau did not include any mention of a Canada Grain Act reformation although it was included in the 2019 federal budget.
Hear Shaun Haney’s discussion with Patti Miller and what changes might be in store for the Canada Grains Act and the issue of falling number discounts: