With a Canadian Pacific Rail strike looming, Saskatchewan’s grain backlog could get a lot worse if a deal isn’t reached.
CP Rail is already conducting a “structured shutdown” of their rail operations in case a deal can’t be reached with employees by midnight Friday.
Farmers in the prairies have already been hit hard by a grain backlog due to weather conditions and rail capacity through the winter months.
“It’s a big problem and we just need to see grain move more efficiently,” Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) President Todd Lewis said.
He noted a strike would leave many farmers with no options to move their 2017 crops, which are still sitting in bins across the province. Many producers rely upon CP Rail as the only close transportation option for their crops.
Lewis said the warmer weather and melting snow makes it more difficult to move the grain to another rail line.
Even if a farmer could get there, it may not be much help.
“CN is plugged up too,” he said.
“It’s just a bad situation, we can’t afford to have anymore delays in service.”
APAS has signed on to a letter to the federal government asking them to prepare back-to-work legislation if CP Rail workers do go on strike.
Lewis said farmers have been getting by on bridge financing through the grain backlog, with service charges increasing their overall costs for the year already.
He emphasized he doesn’t blame the union representing rail workers for the possible strike action.
“It just speaks to some of the bad labour relations in the railway industry,” Lewis said.
“But here we are being held hostage again by a strike notice.”