APAS president Todd Lewis called for a swift passing of the legislation
By Diego Flammini
Members of Western Canada’s agricultural industry appeared before a Senate committee to stress the importance of a reliable grain transport system.
“Producers are heavily reliant on Canada’s railways,” Todd Lewis, president of Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, told the Senate standing committee on transport and communications on Feb. 14, adding that some grain must travel 1,900 km to reach a port.
An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and Other Acts, commonly referred to as Bill C-49, passed its second reading in the Senate in early December. The bill still needs to pass a third reading and receive Royal Assent from the Governor General before it can become law.
The legislation includes reciprocal penalties, meaning multiple parties can face penalties if agreements were breached.
Those provisions support farmers when their crops are not moved for reasons beyond their control, said Warren Sekulic, a director with the Alberta Wheat Commission.
“Passage of this bill is imperative, especially in light of the poor rail service that shippers have been experiencing in Western Canada this year,” he told the committee. At the end of December, for example, he had about 1,000 tonnes of contracted grain on his farm that had not moved.
“That’s about 30 per cent of my total grain production,” he said.
Reformed grain movement legislation is also important to meet export goals.
In May, the Advisory Council on Economic Growth set a goal for Canadian agricultural exports to reach $75 billion by 2025.
And proper grain transportation is necessary to meet those export levels, said Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.
“We are being held back by railway performance,” Dahl told the committee on Feb. 14. Canadian National Railway (CN) only supplied “57 per cent of demand.”
CN has cancelled nearly 13,000 hopper car orders since August and the company had 1,072 unfilled orders for rail cards as of Feb. 8, according to Bloomberg.
More agricultural representatives are scheduled to address the standing committee on transport and communications on Feb. 27.
Speakers include Dan Mazier, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, and Greg Northey, a director with Pulse Canada.