'Enforce the law': Commodity groups call for quick resolution surrounding rail line protest

Protesters standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s protest of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project have set up blockades in three provinces — Ontario, B.C., and now Manitoba — significantly impacting rail movement and precipitating CN Rail to cancel hundreds of train movements.

Many in the agriculture industry are nervous about what this means for grain, fuel, and goods movement across Canada and to port. Without crops moving to port, there’s no money moving to farmers.

Alberta Barley says that these rail delays, “will cause unintended negative impacts on farmers and the entire agriculture industry” adding that even a short blockage will cause a massive backlog with economic losses that are ultimately borne by farmers.

“With blockades happening in multiple Canadian locations, farmers will feel immediate effects,” says Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair. “Delays will result in farmers being unable to deliver their grain, meaning they can’t be paid at least until service resumes. We are still recovering from the harvest from hell and need reliable grain movement in order to get back on track.”

CN has already stopped moving traffic between Western and Eastern Canada to Prince Rupert, B.C. and traffic destined to Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest from customers east of the Montreal area. Upwards of 300 trains have been canceled since the blockades began with further shutdowns planned, if the blockades are not cleared “immediately,” CN Rail says in a notice sent to grain companies. Grain delivery will be reduced and delayed during this time.

When looking back at the most recent disruptions farmers have had to face, AWBC points to the 2019 harvest, and the eight-day rail strike between CN and its workers, and to top it off, a 10-day cold spell in January that came with heavy rains.

Along with Alberta Barley, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers are also calling on the various levels of governments for a quick resolution to get the rail lines clear for grain shipments.

“Grain farmers should not be held hostage through this issue. We call upon the federal and provincial authorities to enforce the law, and clear the blockades,” says Daryl Fransoo, Saskatchewan director with the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

“The blockades that are stopping rail traffic have far reaching impacts. Grain farmers depend on the movement of their grain to export markets all around the world and our markets depend on the timely arrival of our grain.”

Listen to Alberta Barley’s Dave Bishop speak with RealAgriculture’s Kelvin Heppner about the illegal blockades while at CropConnect:

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