Canada's biggest railway is deflecting blame for the on-going grain transportation crisis to a new target : grain companies and elevators and the federal government's ending of the Wheat Board's marketing monopoly.
In a statement issued Monday, CN Rail argues that the entire supply chain is responsible for the massive backlog of grain. He said railroads are being unfairly targeted.
"There has to be greater supply chain collaboration, not finger pointing," insisted Mark Hallman, CN Rail's director of communications.
Just a day after the federal government tabled legislation to change the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, truckers hauling crops to a terminal near Balgonie said they still aren’t seeing enough train cars opened up to get grain moving.
The Saskatchewan Government says Ottawa isn't going far enough to get the grain moving on the rails. Rail companies argue the new legislation forcing them to meeting standards or face fines is "heavy-handed". But caught in the middle are the prairie grain farmers, many of whom say they still aren’t seeing results fast enough.
Some Saskatchewan agriculture producers have given the thumbs up to the federal government’s action on the grain backlog.
Producers met with federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz and his provincial counterpart Lyle Stewart in Saskatoon on Thursday to discuss the government’s Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, which was tabled in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“We’re very interested in the legislation that is proposed and the improvements that we hope it will mean in grain transportation,” Lee Moats, vice chair of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, said.
It is a sigh of a relief for at least some Saskatchewan grain farmers who are finally able to deliver their grain to the terminal.
Bill Aulie farms at Rouleau, southeast of Regina. This week he hauled 17,000 bushels of durum wheat to the Richardson Grain terminal at Corinne, 26 kilometers away.
"They got their first durum train on Sunday/Monday, then they refilled Wednesday/Thursday. Now I think they are getting another train this week and another one next week," he said.
It's coming in the nick of time.
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.