Evaluation of the Harvest Sample Program - Final Report

Program profile


The Harvest Survey Program was first implemented in 1927 to accumulate data on the differences in protein content of milling grade Canada Western Red Spring wheat. Over time, the scope of the survey was expanded to include the collection and assessment of both western and eastern wheat varietiesFootnote1, oilseeds (including canola, flax, mustard, solinFootnote2, and soybeans), and pulses (including peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans) from western Canada, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Historically, the harvest survey has used different sampling methodologies for western and eastern Canada.

Western Canada

From 1927 to 1994, samples were obtained from western grain elevators, with supplemental samples obtained from Winnipeg grain company offices and Canadian Grain Commission western Canada inspection offices. In response to a declining number of primary elevators, the methodology was changed in 1994Footnote3. Between 1995 and 2003, samples of wheat, canola, flax and barley were sourced directly from western producers with the assistance of the Canadian Wheat Board, which supplied producer information and seeding intentions. Producers were selected from the Canadian Wheat Board database based on 3 year crop production averages for each region. The 2003 adoption of the Privacy Act prevented the Canadian Wheat Board from supplying the Canadian Grain Commission with producer contact information. Consent cards were sent to all producers who participated in the Harvest Sample Program during 2002 and 2003 to request their voluntary participation. Since 2004, producers have remained the primary source of samples with supplemental samples obtained from crushing plants (canola and flax), processors (pulses and mustard), producer associations and elevators.

Eastern Canada

During the 1980s, the Harvest Sample Program was expanded to include eastern Canadian grains. The survey was split between eastern and western Harvest Sample Program by a boundary that runs through Thunder Bay, OntarioFootnote4. During the late 1980s and 1990s, samples from eastern Canada were collected and graded by the staff at the Chatham office of the Canadian Grain Commission. Individual samples or composites were sent to the Canadian Grain Commission headquarters in Winnipeg for further analysis. From 2007 to 2009, Weather Innovations was contracted by the Ontario Wheat Board to collect samples for analysis by the Canadian Grain Commission Grain Research Laboratory. In 2010, responsibility for sample collection was transferred to Grain Farmers of Ontario, which sourced samples from eastern Canadian elevators. Since 2009, samples have also been solicited directly from eastern Canadian grain producers, and supplemental samples continue to be sourced from Grain Farmers of Ontario, provincial grain commissions, processors and associations.

Program overview

Program purpose and beneficiaries

The primary purpose of the Harvest Sample Program is to provide the Canadian Grain Commission with information on the intrinsic processing and end-use quality of Canadian grains harvested in a given year. The information is used to optimize management of the quality assurance system by measuring the effectiveness of the grain grading system and the year to year variability in the processing and end-use qualities within the grain grades. As shown in the following table, increasing use of the sample materials within the Canadian Grain Commission and the resulting annual harvest quality reports and information among external stakeholders has resulted in a growing number of objectives and beneficiaries of the program.

Table 4.1: Harvest Sample Program objectives and beneficiaries
Objective Beneficiaries
1. Provide a snapshot of the intrinsic processing and end-use quality of grains harvested each crop year Quality Assurance Program (Industry Services Division)
2. Source diverse and non-blended samples of Canadian grain to prepare the visual grading standards Quality Assurance Program (Industry Services Division)
3. Source diverse and non-blended samples of Canadian grain to research and monitor the geographical occurrence of grain grading factors, evaluate experimental classes and support other special research projects Grain Quality Research Program (Grain Research Laboratory)
4. Provide unbiased, unofficial grade and quality information to aid in producer protection and the effective marketing of Canadian grains Producers
5. Provide an unbiased third-party indicator of the predominant grading factors and anticipated grade distributions to support the marketing of Canadian grains Producers, marketers, traders, domestic and international buyers, producer and industry associations, processors and handlers

Program governance

The Harvest Sample Program is currently one of several programs and activities included in Sub-Program 1.4.3 Producer Support Programs, under Program 1.4 Producer Protection ProgramFootnote5. The Canadian Grain Commission is undergoing revisions to its program activity architecture that will result in a merging of the 4 distinct program streams into 2, at which time the Harvest Sample Program will be categorized as a sub-program of the Quality Assurance Program. As the Harvest Sample Program has no permanent staff or fixed budget, it is not material enough to be considered an independent program.

The Harvest Sample Program is managed by the Grain Research Laboratory of the Grain Quality Research Program. The Director of the Grain Research Laboratory is directly responsible for the Harvest Sample Program and the Lead Chemist, Analytical Services serves as Program Manager. For approximately 2 months each year, Grain Research Laboratory technicians carry out the core collection activities including management of the producer database, the solicitation and collection of grain samples, preparation of composites and communication of results to producers. Additional term staff is hired for a 2- to 3-week period to assist in the preparation and mailing of the harvest sample packages to participating producers.

Other divisions of the Canadian Grain Commission are also involved in the Harvest Sample Program. The Industry Services Division, which manages the Quality Assurance Program and Quantity Assurance Program, provides inspectors to grade and analyze samples. Staff responsible for Internal Services, which include Management and Oversight, Communications Services, Financial Management Services and Information Technology Services, provides communications expertise and services including:

  • artwork for grain envelopes and kit material
  • advertising, press releases and webpage updates
  • information technology services required to maintain and update the program systems
  • financial support for the forecasting, budgeting and tracking of program expenditures

Program activities

The core activities of the Harvest Sample Program involve the annual collection and analysis of grain samples and composition by class and/or grade. The program typically begins with planning in March and ends with the publication of final results in November. The results are shared with prospective buyers and processors by Canadian Grain Commission representatives at domestic and international new crop missions in November and December.

Collection of grain samples

Samples are obtained from producers who have voluntarily registered to participate. For some grains, supplemental samples are obtained from grain handling companies, producer organizations and the Industry Services Division to ensure sufficient volumes for the preparation of composite samples. To solicit the samples, Canadian Grain Commission staff develops and maintain a database of consenting producers. Each year prior to harvest, Grain Research Laboratory and temporary staff mail approximately 8,000 harvest packages, which include pre-paid envelopes up to a maximum of 8 per registered producer. Preparation of the sample kits occurs from May to July, with packages mailed to producers in August. Producers (and alternative sources) fill the pre-paid envelopes and return the samples to the Canadian Grain Commission Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg before the November 1 deadline. The representativeness of the samples by crop region is tracked and additional samples are solicited as required.

Analysis of samples and preparation of composites

Between late August and November 1, samples are received, sorted by grain and class, cleaned and sent to the Grading Standards Sub-Program of the Quality Assurance Program for analysis of grading factors and grading. Near infrared transmittance technology (Infratec Tecator) is used to conduct whole grain analysis. The grade and quality information produced includes:

  • protein content for cereal grains and pulses
  • oil, protein and chlorophyll content for canola
  • oil and protein content and iodine value for flaxseed;
  • oil and protein for mustard seed and soybeansFootnote6

The unofficial grade for each sample is shared with participating producers via a personal account on the Canadian Grain Commission website or over the telephone. Composite samples are then prepared by crop region for the same grade and class, based on protein content. Portions are taken from each of the protein bands to make the protein segregates (usually 13.5 and 14.5) which are sent for full wheat, milling, baking and noodle analysis to determine their intrinsic processing and end-use qualitiesFootnote7.

Additional research and preparation of harvest quality reports

Individual samples are provided to Grain Quality Research Program divisions for further analysis and special research projects. The results of the composite analyses are prepared by scientists and program managers and shared with interested stakeholders free of charge via the Canadian Grain Commission website, communication materials, and domestic and international crop missions and presentations conducted by Canadian Grain Commission staff and other stakeholders. A list of the quality parameters included in the 2015 harvest quality reports is provided in Appendix 2.

Program resources

The program has no fixed human or financial resources. With the exception of the term staff hired to prepare the sample mail outs, human resources are shared with the Grain Research Laboratory, Industry Services Division and Internal Services program. A total of $750,000 is annually allocated to the completion of the program; however, program expenditures fluctuate depending on the number of samples received, the number and areas of special focus and the cost of postage. A more detailed analysis of program expenditures is provided in section 5.6.

Program logic model

The purpose of a logic model is to illustrate a program’s design as a logical sequence, outlining the intended causal relationships between the program activities, outputs and expected outcomes. The following provides a description of the Harvest Sample Program’s intended sequence of outputs and outcomes. The Harvest Sample Program logic model is provided in Appendix 1.

Outputs of the program include the:

  • unofficial grade and quality assessments provided to participating producersFootnote8
  • grain samples and data provided to the Grain Quality Research Program and Quality Assurance Program
  • annual harvest quality reports made available to interested stakeholders free of charge

In the immediate term, these outputs are expected to result in the following outcomes:

  • producers’ increased knowledge of their grain quality
  • increased awareness among domestic and international buyers and processors of the quality of Canadian grain crops
  • material support for the activities and objectives of the Quality Assurance Program and Grain Quality Research Program

In the intermediate term, the Harvest Sample Program is expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

  • improvements in producers’ ability to negotiate a fair price and grade for their grain
  • increased confidence among stakeholders (including potential buyers and processors) in the quality, grading factors and specifications of the Canadian grain crop
  • information that assists the domestic grain industry in marketing Canadian grains

In the long term, the Harvest Sample Program is expected to contribute towards the achievement of the Canadian Grain Commission’s ultimate strategic outcome to ensure that “Canada’s grain is safe, reliable, and marketable and Canadian grain producers are properly compensated for grain deliveries to licensed grain companies.”