Former commissioners from the Canadian Grain Commission say cuts to farmer protection and grain quality programming will hurt farmers and Canada’s reputation for quality grain.
In a press release Wednesday, former commissioner Albert Schatzke and ex-assistant commissioners Donna Welke and Bob Douglas presented a spending forecast from the federal government that describes the budget for the CGC’s producer protection programs as cut by 67 per cent, while the research program budget is cut by 60 per cent and grain quality program funding nearly in half.
“As Ottawa’s contribution goes down, producer costs
The three former commissioners, whose terms all ended in 2006, said the spending forecast was released Wednesday morning, the day before federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz discusses federal ag department spending before the House of Commons’ agriculture committee.
The release, distributed by the three commissioners through the agriculture wing of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said Ritz’s Bill C-39, as announced in December, would “gut the Grain Commission’s inspection, weighing and independent oversight that ensures producers are treated fairly.”
“These cuts will undermine grain producers in their dealings with grain companies, which have never been more powerful,” Douglas said. “Canada’s reputation for top-quality grain will be hurt too. You can’t protect producers and make these cuts at the same time.”
C-39 would also “kill” the CGC’s inward inspection services, the ex-commissioners wrote in their release.
Those, the ex-commissioners wrote, are the inspections that identify dangerous contaminants such as mercury and fungi such as ergot and fusarium. Inward inspections also offer early warning alerts of the presence of glass, metal shavings, rocks and other safety hazards in grain shipments arriving at terminal elevators, as well as bug infestations, the ex-commissioners said.
Bob Kingston, executive vice-president of the Agriculture Union – PSAC, called on Ritz to “withdraw this flawed legislation” and instruct the CGC to, “at the very least, maintain the level of service it now provides to producers.”
The Agriculture Union – PSAC said in its statement that it represents 9,500 people who work at Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the CGC.
The grain commission is now led by chief commissioner Elwin Hermanson, a former Reform MP and Saskatchewan provincial opposition leader named to the post by Ritz in January.