WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA — The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) announced on April 2 that it is celebrating 100 years of service to Canada's grain producers and the industry.
"We are proud to be a part of an industry that has helped shape and continues to shape Canada," said Elwin Hermanson, chief commissioner. "We have guaranteed producers the right to fair treatment since 1912, and we've kept pace with the needs of a changing industry over the last 100 years."
Grain is one of Canada's main export commodities and has been instrumental in Canada's economic development. Since April 1, 1912, the Canadian Grain Commission has worked with Canada's grain producers and industry to ensure that Canada's grain is a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets.
Beginning in the 1890s, grain farmers in Western Canada began petitioning the Canadian government for protection against unfair practices. A full history of the early days of grain farming and the beginning of the Canadian Grain Commission, called 100 years of quality assurance, is available on the Canadian Grain Commission's web site at www.grainscanada.gc.ca.
In 1912, the Canadian government passed the Canada Grain Act, in response to demands from farmer organizations for legislation ensuring farmers were treated fairly in Canada's grain handling system. This act created the Board of Grain Commissioners, as the Canadian Grain Commission was then known.
In 1912, the Canadian Grain Commission set grading standards for seven types of grain: wheat, durum, barley, oats, rye, flaxseed and buckwheat. At that time, wheat was king. By 1913, Canadian producers were producing 7.7 million tonnes of wheat.
Today, reflecting the diversity of crops grown by Canadian grain producers, 21 grains are regulated by the Canadian Grain Commission. Wheat is still an important crop. In 2011, Canadian producers produced over 20 million tonnes of wheat. However, other crops, such as canola, have grown in importance. In 2011, producers produced over 13 million tonnes of canola, a crop that did not exist in 1912.
Since 1914, the Grain Research Laboratory has been providing a scientific foundation for Canada's grading system. In its early days, the laboratory focused on wheat quality for bread-making because wheat was Canada's primary export crop. Over the years, the laboratory has grown to include different crops and technologies.
In response to an increase in pulse production, the Pulse Research program began in 2000. Pulses, which include beans and chick peas, were once a minor crop in Western Canada. In the 1990s, about 1 million tonnes of pulses were produced. By 2009, production increased to 5.6 million tonnes. That same year Canada exported 4.1 million tonnes of pulses worth nearly C$2.2 billion.
Quality testing has always been an important role for the Canadian Grain Commission. Researchers in the Grain Research Laboratory and inspectors work to develop scientifically valid testing methods that meet the needs of the industry.
In the 1970s, researchers developed a protein testing method using near-infrared reflectance (NIR) technology. This method, which replaced more cumbersome, laboratory-based methods, is still the industry standard for determining protein content in grain.
Customers of Canada's grain are concerned about the safety of grain products. Providing assurances to export customers helps keep markets open for Canadian grain. Since the 1960s, the Grain Research Laboratory has been conducting research and cargo monitoring to support this goal.
In the 1960s, the Pesticide Residue Unit used 2 methods to test for 15 compounds. Today, the Trace Elements and Trace Organic Analysis Programs (which replaced the Pesticide Unit) use over 15 methods to test for over 200 compounds. Researchers review methods and develop new ones as required to maintain market access for Canada's grain.