Grain companies have never liked the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) with its mandate to “regulate the industry in the interests of producers.” For over 100 years the CGC has had the legal responsibility to stop grain companies from using faulty weights, grades and inspections, because all too often these companies have deliberately tried to cheat farmers to make higher profits for themselves. Some things never change.
Over the past couple of decades, the CGC’s ability to do its job for farmers has been eroded by governments influenced by lobbying from the grain companies.
The CGC has been most seriously undermined when governments have appointed Chief Commissioners who previously worked for — and whose thinking and values are aligned with — the very grain companies they are now tasked with regulating.
Over the past several months, Agriculture Canada and the grain companies, in concert with the current senior staff of the CGC, have been re-writing the Canada Grain Act, mostly behind closed doors. Grain company foxes are advising on how to guard the producers’ hen house.
Their proposed changes to the Act — a grain company wish list — will be put in front of the new Minister of Agriculture immediately after this fall’s federal election, with the expectation it will be quickly passed into law by Parliament. This wish list will call for the repeal of the CGC’s mandate to “regulate the industry in the interests of grain producers”. Changing the CGC’s role from policing the industry, safeguarding the fairness, quality and integrity of Canada’s grain system to instead becoming merely an optional service provider to the grain companies, would cause huge losses for grain farmers. Sidelining the referee would fix the game in favour of the companies.
Farmers are fighting back against the seed companies’ efforts to force farmers to beg (and pay) to save and re-use seed we grow on our own farms. Now farmers need to stand up to the grain companies’ efforts to grab total control of all aspects of the grain handling and marketing system. This election, farmers need to make sure all their federal candidates know that the Canadian Grain Commission and its mandate to protect grain farmers’ interests are essential to maintaining a healthy farming sector in Canada.