Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart expressed disappointment with federal legislation aimed at resolving a shipping crisis paralyzing deliveries of Western Canadian grain.
While he called legislation tabled in Ottawa Wednesday "a step in the right direction," he said it didn't include several items that he was looking for.
The province submitted a list of requests to the Harper government as the bill was being drafted.
Those included raising the number of grain cars that the railways would be required to ship to 13,000 a week.
Farmers are getting more help from the government to get grain and other crop moving.
The province is easing seasonal weight restrictions on highways to allow vehicles carrying heavy loads when they otherwise would not be allowed to.
There are certain road bans on thin membrane surface (TMS) roads and other grid highways during the transition from winter to spring; generally, there is at least a 15 per cent reduction in the weight limit. But starting Wednesday, farmers can apply for a special permit to allow heavy vehicles to travel down those roads.
Saskatchewan livestock farmers got some protection from the ups and downs of the business in Wednesday's budget.
A new insurance program guarantees them a minimum price for their animals. Hog and cattle producers will be able to use the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) to purchase coverage that will shield them from market downturns.
Canadian Pacific Rail has been blaming the weather and the record crop for the grain backlog but a union representative for engineers says that’s not the whole story.
Dave Able used to be an engineer for CP Rail, but now he represents the Teamsters union full time. He says part of the solution to the grain backlog is to deal with a shortage of manpower on the rail line.
“Our guys are in their working day in and day out and they’re getting fatigued. Everyone needs a reset, we’re not like the locomotives and there’s just not enough people to fill the crews,” he said.
Chris Sutter, one of the founding fathers of Canadian Western Agribition, passed away on Friday.
Sutter was the first President of Agribition and the visionary behind the show.
His vision became a reality in 1971 with the opening of the first ever Canadian Western Agribition.
Of all the times a federal transportation minister could come, Minister Lisa Raitt chose now—in the middle of a grain transportation crisis—to come to Saskatchewan for the first time.
Raitt was invited by the Saskatchewan Association of Urban Municipalities (SARM) to address the crowd. SARM President David Marit said Raitt agreed to come on short notice.
“It could be a hostile crowd because there’s issues around the grain transportation,” said Marit before Raitt’s speech. “There’s a lot of upset farmers. I’m upset too.”
Local farm equipment dealers are seeing the effects of the railways being backed-up just as much as farmers.
Without farmers being able to sell their grain, they aren’t as eager to purchase new equipment.
Brad Miller is the store manager at Cervus Equipment Prince Albert, which sells John Deere farming implements.
“They’re frustrated that they can’t move their grain and bills have to be paid and inputs have to be purchased, and they don’t have any money,” Miller said.
The Government of Saskatchewan is calling a free trade deal signed between Canada and South Korea a win for farmers.
In a prepared statement following the Harper government's announcement of the agreement, the province pointed out that Saskatchewan exports to the Asian nation have taken a beating in recent years. That's because the U.S. and the European Union both signed trade deals with South Korea back in 2011, which left Canada at a competitive disadvantage.
Grain farmers in Saskatchewan are glad the federal government is finally paying attention to the grain backlog that is costing them money and threatening next year's crop.