The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is calling for an immediate reduction on Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) user fees paid by farmers and is asking for a large surplus to be returned to farmers.

A spokesman for the CGC says the federal agency had a $95 million surplus as of March 31, 2016 due to higher than expected grain volumes over the past few years and lower spending by the commission.

“With approximately $100 million of farmers’ hard-earned money having piled up into this enormous surplus, it’s time to immediately give growers a break and reduce these user fees,” said Levi Wood, President of the Wheat Growers.  “User fees are supposed to help pay for their operations, but a nine figure surplus in user fees is shocking.”

Farmers are currently being charged about $1.80 per tonne of grain delivered, which are for inspection and weighing certification of grain being sold for export.  An average grower who delivered 5,500 tonnes of grain to an elevator for export in the past year would have paid about $10,000 in these user fees in just one year.

“It’s been a tough year with the nasty weather we’ve had, and lower commodity prices, so a fee reduction and refund will go a long way to help growers,” said Graeme Manness, Director of the Wheat Growers, who farms at Domain, Manitoba.  “And it is growers’ money, that’s why we’re asking our farming colleagues to join with us in calling for the reduction and refund of our hard-earned dollars back to us at the farm-gate.”

The CGC says it's planning to consult with producers and grain handling companies on a new fee schedule that could include lower rates. Those meetings are expected to start early this year. The agency is also considering rebates and other options such as spending more on grain research.

The Wheat Growers has launched a petition on the issue.

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