Grain Sitting Idle While Farmers' Fume
By Jean-Paul McDonald
2018 has already gone off the rails for most grain farmers in the Canadian Prairies, as the continued shortage of rail cars is making an already tense situation worse. For the last few years, many western grain farmers have been burdened by an inability to move their grains to ports and other destinations, both nationally and globally. The prolonged delays are the result of a shortage of rail cars to transport the grains from the elevators to the world. To make matters worse, there’s competition between ag producers and energy producers – both relying on the same rail network to get their products to market.
Not only do the shipping delays force producers to store their grains in bins for longer periods of time, they also force some producers to go months without being paid – which is unsustainable even with the best market prices. At a time when most area grain farmers would have already shipped around 50% of their product, many are lucky if they’ve delivered 25%. With the high costs of production and the current market prices, grain farmers across the great plains are struggling to make ends meet due to the basic fact that our national railway is floundering.
But the stalling isn’t just happing on the tracks, it’s happening in the senate as well. Proposed legislation, Bill C-49 would provide the government with adequate tools to help farmers with cash flow and force the railroad operators to transport the grains, or face penalties. These measures, however, are tied to other provisions in the bill, namely a new air passenger bill of rights, that Transportation Minister Marc Garneau refuses to separate out in the bill to pass the rail provisions more quickly.
“We need action,” says Ron Bonnett, head of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture “We’re going to have farmers who are struggling to pay their bills and families that are suffering because of inaction by government and by the railroads.”