Canary seed gains official ‘grain’ status

New regulations to take effect Aug. 1

(Photo courtesy Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan)

MarketsFarm — No longer just for the birds, canary seed will soon gain official status under the Canada Grain Act, the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) announced Wednesday.

Following stakeholder consultations and calls from producers the CGC is implementing regulatory changes for the crop effective Aug. 1.

The move to official status was good news to Darren Yungmann, chair of the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan and a farmer at St. Gregor, east of Humboldt.

The organization had made the call for including the crop at its annual meeting in January 2020, after the failure of a grain company the previous year left many producers without any recourse after they were unpaid for their deliveries.

“It will be like all other grains,” said Yungmann. Processors and buyers dealing with canary seed will need to be properly bonded, he said, allowing for greater protections for farmers, and increased standards for grading will also be welcomed.

With 273,000 acres planted to the crop in 2020, producing 160,600 tonnes, canary seed is the largest volume grain that wasn’t yet protected under the Canada Grain Act. Canada accounts for 65 per cent of global production and about 80 per cent of total export of canary seed.

Average production of canary seed in Canada over the last six years was 149,600 tonnes and the average seeded area was 273,050 acres. Preliminary estimates from Statistics Canada peg 2021 planted area at 243,600 tonnes.

Yungmann didn’t think the official status would necessarily result in significant increased acres to the crop, noting most buyers in the market were already relatively stable.

“After successive licensee failures where canary seed growers were left empty handed, it was clear we needed to extend regulatory safeguards to the sector,” CGC chief commissioner Doug Chorney said Wednesday in a release.

“We’re very pleased to be able to offer canary seed growers the rights and services provided by the Canada Grain Act and help ensure they are fairly compensated for their deliveries,” he added.

Producers growing canary seed will benefit from the same rights, services and protections on their canary seed crop as they do on other regulated grains, including:

  • the right to have their canary seed assessed for grade and dockage following official grading standards at time of delivery;
  • the right to dispute their grain’s assessment at a licensed primary grain elevator at the time of delivery, through the CGC’s ‘subject to inspector’s grade and dockage’ service;
  • payment protections through the CGC’s Safeguards for Grain Farmers Program; and
  • access to no-fee quality assessments through the CGC’s Harvest Sample Program.

The CGC consulted with canary seed handlers and growers to determine the grade and quality specifications for the crop. A grade determinant table along with a moisture chart are to be added to the CGC website in July.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin reports for MarketsFarm from Winnipeg.

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