Evaluation of the Harvest Sample Program - Final Report

Conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions

The following conclusions address the relevance, achievement of intended outcomes, and program design and delivery of the Harvest Sample Program.

Relevance

The Harvest Sample Program is aligned with federal roles and responsibilities, federal priorities and Canadian Grain Commission strategic outcomes. Although the program is not mandated by the Canada Grain Act, Harvest Sample Program activities and outputs support key legislated responsibilities of the Canadian Grain Commission including the Industry Services Division’s development of visual grading standards and monitoring and verification of grading factors, and the Grain Quality Research Program’s research on environmental conditions and other special research projects. The Harvest Sample Program is aligned with federal priorities to ensure the growth, competitiveness and sustainability of the agriculture sector and the Canadian Grain Commission’s strategic outcome to ensure that “Canada’s grain is safe, reliable, and marketable and Canadian grain producers are protected.” The program also supports the Canadian Grain Commission’s new organizational priority, “investing in stakeholder relations”, as identified in its 2015 to 2016 Report on Plans and Priorities.

There is a significant continued need for the Harvest Sample Program. The samples are essential for supporting the objectives and activities of the Grain Quality Research Program and the Quality Assurance Program. The Harvest Sample Program is the primary or only source of materials for numerous Grain Quality Research Program staff, due to the fact that the program sources pure, non-blended samples with an identified geographic location directly from producers at the beginning of the supply chain. Alternative sources of materials including cargo shipment samples, plant breeder samples and composite samples obtained from elevators, producer associations or other stakeholders would be inappropriate based on the Canadian Grain Commission’s needs. Changes in the marketing of grains and oilseeds, and the introduction of an open market for Western wheat and barley have led to increased demand for the Harvest Sample Program outputs among many external beneficiaries. Use of the free annual harvest quality reports by external beneficiaries is significant and increasing. A culling of the producer registrant database due primarily to retirement, relocation and death of producers has resulted in a 24% decline in the total number of program registrants in 2015. The survey of program registrants has found that they are disproportionately older than the overall Canadian farming community. While it has been a priority of the Canadian Grain Commission to seek new registrants, further efforts are needed to support the recruitment of younger producers.

Overall, the Harvest Sample Program complements harvest surveys undertaken by other organizations in Canada. While there are some overlaps in the information provided by the Canadian Grain Commission’s Annual Harvest Quality report and the Canadian International Grains Institute’s (Cigi) Harvest Assessment Report, the evaluation found that the information provided by these 2 reports is used differently by the same stakeholders in addition to benefiting different stakeholders in the value chain. The differences in the harvest sampling methodologies used by the Canadian Grain Commission and Cigi are complementary. Whereas Cigi partners with 9 major grain companies to obtain samples and provides them with grading information to support their marketing strategy, the Harvest Sample Program sources directly from producers and provides them with unofficial grades to inform their marketing strategies in alignment with the Canadian Grain Commission’s Producer Protection Program. Cigi’s annual assessment and report includes only Canada Western Red Spring, Canada Western Amber Durum, Canada Western Red Winter and Canada Prairie Red Spring from the Prairie region. In addition to these 4 wheat classes, the Canadian Grain Commission publishes harvest quality reports on other western Canadian wheat classes, wheat exports, flaxseed, lentils, malting barley and peas, Ontario wheat, and Canadian non-food grade soybeans and food-grade soybeans.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Ontario Wheat Harvest Quality Scoop, conducted in partnership with the Canadian Grain Commission as an extension of the Harvest Sample Program, is complementary. Nevertheless, the Canadian Grain Commission has been challenged obtaining sufficient samples from Eastern Region producers. The Canadian Grain Commission may need to further enhance its relationship with Grain Farmers of Ontario and establish additional relationships to enhance the Harvest Sample Program for eastern grains. Other sources of grading and assessment, such as grain companies and analytical labs, do not duplicate or overlap with the Harvest Sample Program as they have a different purpose and focus and do not publish harvest quality information. Almost all external beneficiaries use the Canadian Grain Commission’s outputs to complement other sources of harvest quality information.

Achievement of intended outcomes

The Harvest Sample Program has been successful in achieving its immediate outcomes, which are to:

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

The program supports the activities of the Quality Assurance Program and the Grain Quality Research Program by providing an annual source of unblended producer samples which maximizes the range of varieties, environmental factors, and quality characteristics. The annual harvest quality reports and information generated using the Harvest Sample Program samples also support the Canadian Grain Commission’s obligation to implement a system of grading that meets the need for efficient marketing of grain in and outside of Canada. External program beneficiaries are very satisfied with the program overall. The unofficial grade and quality information provided to participants is perceived by almost all recipients to be useful or very useful in providing them with increased knowledge to better market their grain. The Canadian Grain Commission’s annual harvest quality reports are very useful in providing external stakeholders with better information on the Canadian grain crop.

The program has also been successful in achieving its intermediate outcomes, which are to:

  • improve producers’ ability to negotiate a fair price and grade for their grain
  • increase stakeholders’ confidence in the quality, grading factors and specifications of the Canadian grain crop
  • provide information that assists the domestic grain industry in marketing Canadian grains

The free, unofficial grade and quality information provided to participating producers enables them to make an informed assessment of buyers’ offers and more effectively negotiate grade and price. Historical data that demonstrates the consistency of Canadian grains year over year produced as a result of the Harvest Sample Program increases external stakeholders’ (including potential buyers and processors) confidence in the quality, grading factors and specifications of the Canadian grain crop. The fact that the Canadian Grain Commission is an independent government agency also helps to instill confidence in autonomy and validity of the Canadian grading system and the annual harvest reports. Lastly, the detailed information on quality and consistency produced as a result of the program effectively assists the domestic grain industry in marketing Canadian grains.

By supporting the legislated responsibilities of the Canadian Grain Commission, the program positively contributes to the achievement of the Canadian Grain Commission’s 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.” The materials sourced through the program are essential to the Canadian Grain Commission’s ability to recommend and establish grain grades and standards for those grades, implement a system of grading and inspection for Canadian grain, and undertake, sponsor and promote research in relation to grain and grain products. The unofficial grades assist participating producers with their marketing strategies and the annual harvest quality reports are widely used by interested stakeholders to support the marketing of Canadian grains and oilseeds.

Program design and delivery

The current program design is efficient, cost-effective and the most suitable option based on the program’s intended purposes and beneficiaries. Identified alternative sampling methodologies would not meet the needs of Canadian Grain Commission program managers and scientists for unadulterated producer level samples, would not assist producers in marketing their grains and negotiating grade and price, or would be cost-prohibitive.

The design and delivery of the program is meeting the needs of the Canadian Grain Commission by providing the Quality Assurance Program and the Grain Quality Research Program with an adequate supply of diverse sample materials to support their activities and objectives. Identified alternative sources of sample materials are inappropriate based on the Canadian Grain Commission’s needs. The delivery could be enhanced by increasing producer registration and developing a means of more strategically targeting sample submissions to ensure the statistically sound representation of growing regions and commodities.

The design and delivery of the Harvest Sample Program is very effective overall in addressing producers’ needs. Producers are for the most part very satisfied with the delivery of the program and suggest it is very important that the program remain free. If the program were to transition to a fee-for-service program, very few producers would participate and the program would no longer meet the needs of the Quality Assurance Program and the Grain Quality Research Program for sample materials. The producers surveyed indicated that the program could be enhanced by revising the online interface and emailing results to producers, providing the unofficial grade of a harvest sample to producers in a more professional looking printable format, allowing larger producers to submit more than 8 samples, and including additional information in the unofficial grade and quality assessment given to producers.

External beneficiaries are very satisfied with the design and delivery of the Canadian Grain Commission’s annual harvest quality reports and information, and reported that the content, format and delivery are well-suited to their needs. International stakeholders value the ability to communicate directly with Canadian Grain Commission representatives to better understand the harvest quality reports and ask follow up questions specific to their processing needs. Some industry associations and domestic grain companies and buyers suggested the program could be enhanced by increasing the number of samples obtained, more strategically targeting specific commodities and regions, and publishing the reports earlier in the harvest season. Some international stakeholders indicated the utility of the information could be enhanced by integrating the information produced by Cigi and Canadian Grain Commission into one consolidated report and including more information on varietal specific end-use functionality.

Recommendations

While the evaluation found that the Harvest Sample Program has been successful in achieving its objectives and is delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner, some possible opportunities to enhance the program were identified.

Recruit new program participants

Given the demographics of Harvest Sample Program registrants, marketing and promotion efforts are needed to ensure new producers are recruited to replace the older producers as they retire. While the strategies utilized to date (e.g. tradeshows, leveraging communications through producer and industry associations, social media) should be continued, additional promotional and marketing strategies that strategically target under-represented commodities and growing regions should be explored. Possible strategies include the use of radio and print advertisements, direct contact with producers, local community engagements and enhanced partnerships with producer and industry associations.

Improve harvest quality information for producers

Possible enhancements to the type and format of quality information available to producers should be examined in order to increase producer participation in the program. One possible enhancement that should be considered is to include additional technical factors in the unofficial grade and quality information provided to producers. The producers surveyed indicate that a more detailed explanation of the grading factors and the inclusion of falling number, dockage, moisture, hard vitreous kernels, bushel weight, fusarium and vomitoxin would enhance the program.

Additional sample envelopes could be provided to large producers and producers growing multiple varieties of the same commodity. The feasibility of providing registered producers with the ability to update their preferences for which grains they intend to submit each harvest should also be investigated.

Redevelop the online interface for producers

The online interface for producers could be improved. This could include a Harvest Sample Program webpage where participating producers can login via email to update their sample preferences or notify the Canadian Grain Commission that they have retired, relocated or ceased operations. This could also allow producers to access their own results, compare their results year-over-year, and compare their results to those of the regional and national composites.

The possibility of producing a more professional, printable format of the unofficial grade and quality assessment should be examined to further enhance its utility for producers. To encourage participation, producers could be provided with email reminders to submit samples or an email notification informing them that their results are ready. Results could be emailed directly to producers.

Improve tracking of producer participation

To better track producer registration and participation in the program, the number of producers culled from and added to the producer database each year could be consistently tracked and included in the annual harvest survey internal reports issued to Canadian Grain Commission management. If possible, the report could also include the number of producers who submit samples. The current reporting only includes the number of producers issued sample kits and the total number of envelopes received.

Improve communication with stakeholders

The Canadian Grain Commission could assess the feasibility of enhancing communication with stakeholders to inform them of when updates to wheat harvest information are available. While the Canadian Grain Commission currently updates the wheat harvest information on a weekly basis, this update cycle could be better communicated with end-users of the information. There also is an opportunity to increase the extent to which the Canadian Grain Commission communicates with domestic stakeholders and international buyers to promote the Harvest Sample Program and to share the annual harvest quality reports.

Build partnerships to increase participation in eastern Canada

The Canadian Grain Commission could examine potential partnerships with organizations in eastern Canada to obtain alternative sources of harvest samples. This would address the low response rate among eastern producers, and the fact that beginning in 2016 Grain Farmers of Ontario may no longer be partnering with the Canadian Grain Commission to collect samples to support the Harvest Sample Program.

Work with the Canadian International Grains Institute to produce a comprehensive report

The feasibility of a single comprehensive annual harvest quality report that combines the information produced by the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) should be investigated. The US Wheat Associates’ Harvest Assessment Report provides one possible model of a comprehensive national report that draws harvest quality data from multiple sources, using different collection methodologies.