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Coping with KVD and unregistered wheat

In the face of decreasing regulation, building a bulletproof shield against growing liability needs to be on the agenda for quite a few Western Canadian farm managers. The onus of accountability is shifting from regulatory bodies onto producers themselves, according to industry officials.

February 24, 2010  By John Dietz

With new wheat registered and old wheat de-registered, new delivery requirements and new ‘black box’ technology on its way, growers need to prepare before loading out to the elevator.

In the face of decreasing regulation, building a bulletproof shield against growing liability needs to be on the agenda for quite a few Western Canadian farm managers. The onus of accountability is shifting from regulatory bodies onto producers themselves, according to industry officials.

The requirement for Kernel Visual Distinguishability (KVD) as a means of classifying wheat varieties into one of the eight existing wheat classes was removed by the Minister of Agriculture effective Aug. 1, 2008. It was replaced by the industry with a “declaration of eligibility” system to assure customers of the continuing quality of Western Canadian wheat purchases.

The onus may come back on farmers if grain shipments are not properly identified.
Photo by Bruce Barker


As well, in 2007, Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) regulations expanded to include a ninth wheat class, Canada Western General Purpose (CWGP) wheat.

In February 2009, at the request of plant breeders, regulators supported applications for an unprecedented nine new lines of Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat and five entries into the new CWGP class.

Now, the feasibility of a five-minute “black box” or “driveway test” is being researched for use at primary elevators. In theory, it will be able to confirm the varieties of wheat contained in a delivery while the truck is being unloaded. The developer estimates this low-cost test may be widely available in 2011 or 2012.

A further testing method, to laboratory standards and suited to railcar-size shipments, is also close to release. It will enable grain companies, for instance, to spot issues before railcar unloads become mixed into a bin in a grain terminal.

The promise, for an end-use customer unloading a vessel from Canada, is accountability. It will trace a “problem” with the wrong classification right back to the farm bin door.

The liability beast
“There is a higher level of accountability on everyone in the system,” says Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevators Association in Winnipeg. Collectively, the WGEA handles more than 90 percent of Canada’s bulk grain exports. “For farmers, it’s their business to know what they’re delivering and, if they don’t deliver and declare properly, then they could be liable for the associated damages.”

In a grain system that is becoming both more complex and more tightly regulated, Sobkowich and others advise that farm managers need to focus on bulletproofing the farm, with accuracy and the records to prove it. “The critical point in the grain handling system for identifying wheat class is farmer delivery to a primary elevator,” he says. “This is the beast that needs to be right, to build the integrity of the system.”

Farmer-members of the industry committee established to manage the repercussions of the removal of KVD, Sobkowich says, have suggested that numbering bins can be very helpful. “Especially, if you have truckers or farm workers that are getting instructions, you want to be sure a delivery is not made inadvertently from the wrong bin. It’s ensuring diligence, when you make a delivery, to avoid signing a misdeclaration,” explains Sobkowich.

Two mistakes
Very few mistakes occur as farms make hundreds of thousands of grain deliveries into the system each year, but Sobkowich makes reference to two. “The most common mistake is making a delivery into a certain class, not realizing that (a) the variety has been deregistered or that (b) the volunteers of a different class from a previous crop are putting the load over the tolerance level. Those are two red flags.”

For instance, Canada Prairie Spring White has only four varieties registered for acceptance. On April 28, 2011, the lines Snowhite 475 and Snowwhite 476 will be deregistered. Any remaining in stock will be degraded to the feed wheat class.

Another example is that red winter and red spring kernels can look alike. If a grower writes off a red winter wheat and reseeds to red spring wheat, the resulting crop may not qualify for
either class.

CWB versus CWGP
Lawrence Klusa, Canadian Wheat Board quality control manager, says the new CWGP class poses some potential risks for growers and for the system as a whole. “Growers have to be careful when they grow General Purpose that they do have a market. If they can grow low quality wheat at high bushels per acre, and if they have a local feed or ethanol market for that grain, some may be looking at growing General Purpose wheat. I expect, for many years into the future, there will be export markets for high-quality grain, and the CWB will continue to push this market as it offers the best return for most Western Canadian farmers.“

It is more important than ever, suggests Klusa, for farmers to know what they are growing and to keep the classes separate when wheat is going into storage. Then, farmers have to be very specific and careful when they are hauling that grain out and selling it to the various markets. The level of tolerance for other classes of wheat in a CWRS delivery, for example is only 1.5 percent for #1 and about five percent for #3 to export tolerance.

Two steps
The first step in being sure about the product being grown is to know what is being planted, says Pam de Rocquigny, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives cereals specialist. “You know what it is if you purchase Certified seed. However, many producers do save their own seed. A good rule of thumb is to only save seed one generation past Certified. After that, pencil into your costs of production Certified seed for the following year.”

For growers planning to plant common seed, there are a few private labs that will assess which variety it is. But do this well in advance of planting.

The second step is quality control on an individual’s records, and there are a few aspects to keep in mind. It may come down to a grower being able to prove his case about a delivery and being able to supply a sealed sample from a field harvested more than a year ago. “Keep good records as to which field you plant to each variety,” de Rocquigny says. “Let everybody else know as well. When harvest comes, if you’ve got wheat belonging to different classes, keep them separate throughout the harvest and storage process. It’s important for everybody who is involved in the farming operation to know the contents of each bin. For guys coming to pick up seed and deliver, it’s important, too. The person delivering the grain needs to know what class of wheat he’s delivering.”


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