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Railway blockages affecting Prairie farmers

Railway blockages affecting Prairie farmers

Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions as well as other ag organizations are calling for the resolution of railway blockages that will soon prevent agricultural products from being moved across the country

By Taryn Milton
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Protests that have blocked Canadian National (CN) Railway lines across Canada are starting to affect the agricultural industry. The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions called for at quick resolution in a recent release.

Blockades are set up in solidarity with those individuals who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. The pipeline crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.

Todd Hames, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission and a farmer in Marwayne, Alta., said the organization’s immediate concern is the potential for the blockades to slow the shipment of grain to the coast. But a larger issue is also at stake.

“I think that it’s so important to communicate that (grain delays) really hurt us as an exporter. It's a competitive environment in today's export market and Canada has an advantage of producing high- quality grain but, if (the customer) can't get that grain on time, that takes away the advantage.”

Canada’s export reputation is also affected when events like this occur, Hames said.

“One thing I'd like to get consumers and the public to realize is that the public good as a whole of Canada, not just the grain industry, is being damaged. We must be competitive in the global economy and we're fighting amongst ourselves to make that tougher,” Hames said to Farms.com.

Both commissions hope for this dispute to be settled so trains can keep moving and other organizations are starting to call for resolution as well. In a release today, Fertilizer Canada called on Prime Minister Trudeau to lift the blockage.

“Fertilizer Canada supports the right to peaceful protest, but key railway blockades are crippling the movement of essential goods and will do irreparable harm to the economy and Canada's agricultural industry unless they are ended," Garth Whyte, president and CEO at Fertilizer Canada, said in the release.

Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) also urged the federal government to seek ways to end the rail delays.

“We are an industry that relies on export markets in order to survive and thrive. Without access to these markets via rail, we risk compounding further losses on top of what has already been a harvest from hell,” Jeff Nielsen, GGC’s chair, said in a release today.

After being hit with a hard harvest in 2019, which postponed other fall fieldwork, Western Canadian farmers are gearing up to apply ammonia fertilizer this spring. Farmers are also just recovering from the CN strike in November and the blockages are adding to the stress of the upcoming seeding season.

Photo credit: ImagineGolf/E+ photo

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