The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is urging Ottawa to pass Bill C-49
By Diego Flammini
Western Canadian grain producers can do nothing but wait as grain shipment delays continue to hamper operations and bill payments.
“It’s frustrating,” Bill Prybylski, a farmer from Willowbrook, Sask., told CBC yesterday, referring to the fact that only about 25 per cent of his crop has been moved instead of the usual 50 per cent.
“We know we have financial commitments and the only way to meet those commitments are to move the grain, and that’s just not happening.”
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.
This winter, harsh weather conditions and a surge in energy production have driven up rail demand and caused the shipment shortage, according to Bloomberg.
But blaming the weather doesn’t hold much weight with farmers.
“Perhaps that’s poor management on (the railways’) part because the crop is there,” he told CBC. “They know every year they got to ship this amount of grain out, so you would hope they could plan ahead to get the job done.”
The railways are putting plans into action to help farmers get their grain moved.
Canadian Pacific is increasing its available number of crew members and trains. And Canadian National plans to add 400 new conductors by the end of March and another 375 by the end of June, according to emails CBC received from the respective railways.
Canadian farmers have also brought their concerns to the federal government.
Members of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) were in Ottawa this week to urge Senators to expedite the passage of Bill C-49.
“Farmers in Western Canada only get paid when they deliver grain,” a CFA statement said yesterday. “The lack of grain movement is putting hard working farm families in a position where seed, fuel and fertilizer bills must go unpaid and where they do not know if they can make rent and mortgage payments.
“Bill C-49 includes measures to increase competition and accountability in the rail system and provides farmers with some tools to help address problems with grain rail shipments.”
Members of Western Canada’s agricultural industry also 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.”