As harvest rolls, farmers hope communication will lead to better railway performance

The federal Liberal caucus met in Saskatoon, Sask. this week, providing the opportunity to host a hastily-called roundtable on grain transportation.

The roundtable included government representatives, farmers, shippers, and railway executives. The purpose of the meeting, according to a government news release, was to provide “participants with an opportunity to share information, to address challenges, and to support the implementation of some of the new measures that will help with our common goals.”

On the agenda was Bill-C49 the Transportation Modernization Act, the importance of sharing information between parties, and reciprocal penalties. These are the very early days for Bill C-49, and it seems like the government wants to have everyone on board as we head into the winter months. The railways, for their part are saying things like, “We know we have to ship 12 months of the year, not just eight.”

There were concerns raised in the meeting about the number of hopper cars and locomotives available, and the ability of the railways to move the crop already making its way off fields.

“The railways were quite open, they indicated quite clearly what they’re going to do, and farmers were very open with their questions with the railways,” Federal Agriculture Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, says.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau followed up with, “I think we got a very clear indication from the railways that they’re making significant capital expenditures to improve their resiliency.”

The farm groups, for their part, are taking a bit of a wait and see attitude, but are optimistic about the amount of investment the railways are making.

Jack Froese, Canadian Canola Growers (CCGA) president, commented there’s been a lot of positives coming out of Bill C-49. “With a lot more collaboration between railroads and the whole grain production unit per se. It’s good to converse and let them know what kind of crop’s coming forward so they can make some plans,” Froese says.

Hear from Ministers MacAulay and Garneau below. To hear from Jack Froese, of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, skip to the 10 minute mark.

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