Paving the Tote Road corridor would help get grain to market, the Gateway Keeawtin Group said
By Diego Flammini
Improving a stretch of highway could benefit Western Canadian farmers hauling grain.
Upgrading the Tote Road corridor between Nipawin, Sask. and The Pas, Man. would give grain producers better access to the Port of Churchill, said Len Gluska, chair of the Gateway Keewatin Group, which is lobbying for improvements to northern highway systems.
He also has a cash crop operation near Swan River, Man.
The highway, which is currently unpaved, should be able to handle 62,500 kg (137,788 lbs.) of weight, Gluska said. Because it can’t, farmers are spending more money to ship full loads of grain.
This highway, at times, has problematic weight restrictions, he told Farms.com. “And when farmers can truck in the grain, sometimes they have to do half of a load so there’s an extra cost associated with it. I know some truckers that won’t even bring their trucks on that highway because it damaged their equipment.”
Improving access to the Port of Churchill has additional benefits for producers because it’s a free port.
“Being a free port gives farmers the opportunity to load producer cars without going through one of the main (grain handling) companies,” Gluska said. “It also gives smaller exporters a chance to handle some of the grain.”
A one-dollar-per-bushel advantage at the farm gate on a vessel that can carry 1.1 million bushels of grain represents more than $1 million that can be invested into local economies, Gluska said.
Growers could also reduce shipping costs if they’re able to use the Port of Churchill to export harvests.
“We just shipped some grain, and from The Pas to Vancouver was $76 per tonne,” he said. “Shipping from The Pas to Churchill might be $22 per tonne. That’s a big difference.”
Federal and provincial governments are helping get the highway to an acceptable operating standard.
On April 23, Ottawa and Saskatchewan announced each government would invest $12.5 million to upgrade the highway.
The Gateway Keewatin Group expects the highway project to be completed by 2021.
Len Gluska/Jessica R. Durling/Humboldt Journal photo