Sask Wheat confident transportation amendments will benefit farmers
Saskatoon (May 24, 2018) - The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat) is pleased to see the passage of Bill C-49, which amended the Canada Transportation Act, and hopes it will lead to consistent and predictable movement of Canadian grains to port and market.
“The passage of Bill C-49 is the culmination of a lot of hard work by producers, farm organizations, shippers and federal government officials,” says Laura Reiter, Sask Wheat Chair. “The provisions that modernize the movement of grain will improve the relationship between farmers and those in the handling and transportation system and will provide the buyers of Canadian grain greater confidence in our ability to deliver the crops they need.”
The Saskatchewan producer transportation coalition, which includes Sask Wheat, the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley) and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), was in frequent contact with the federal government over the past four years, advocating on behalf of farmers for a fair, effective and transparent transportation and handling system.
The new legislation includes requirements for railways to disclose data and increase transparency on performance metrics, service and rates. It is hoped that these transparency initiatives, along with the potential for reciprocal penalties in railway service agreements, will improve accountability and system performance.
Bill C-49 also provides for the maintenance of the Maximum Revenue Entitlement (MRE), which ensures railway profitability while protecting farmers from excessive rail freight rates. This was a key demand from farm groups. The new bill also introduces long-haul railway interswitching to 1,200 km, or half of the Canadian haul, which has some potential to increase competition between railways.
Farmers have been impacted by rail planning and performance issues since 2013/14, and this has severely impacted farmer deliveries and export returns. The poor performance of the railways in the spring of 2018 has again resulted in higher on-farm inventories, lost sales, and increased demurrage costs. Sask Wheat and its producer coalition partners had been calling for the quick passage of the legislation to prevent any further damage to Canada’s reputation and costs to Canadian farmers.
“While the passage of this legislation took longer than we hoped, it was clear the government heard the voices of farmers and others in the value chain,” says Reiter. “Now we will be able to work together to make sure we avoid situations like we saw this spring and move our industry forward.”
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