Of­fi­cials to dis­cuss ways to put and keep grain in high gear to port

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION -

SASKA­TOON Get­ting grain to port at a faster and more ef­fi­cient clip will be the fo­cus of a meet­ing in Saska­toon in­volv­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, farm lead­ers and ex­ec­u­tives from Canada’s two big­gest rail­ways.

Of­fi­cials from the grain and rail trans­porta­tion sec­tors will be at Wed­nes­day’s roundtable dis­cus­sion, hosted by fed­eral Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau and Lawrence MacAu­lay, fed­eral min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture and agri-food.

Grain trans­porta­tion was a crit­i­cal is­sue for farm­ers last win­ter when pro­duc­ers said ship­ping de­lays and back­logs fol­low­ing what had been in many cases an ex­cel­lent har­vest were re­sult­ing in huge fi­nan­cial losses for them.

Canadian Na­tional and Canadian Pa­cific rail­ways have pre­vi­ously an­nounced plans for im­proved grain move­ment, but West­ern Canadian Wheat Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion direc­tor Daryl Fran­soo says the time for talk is over and it’s re­sults that now count.

Todd Lewis, pres­i­dent of the Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Saskatchewan, says the rail­ways have cal­cu­lated that 4,000 grain cars a week will be enough to han­dle the de­mand, although he notes that farm­ers hope to see even big­ger num­bers.

The roundtable meet­ing co­in­cides with this week’s fed­eral Lib­eral cau­cus meet­ing in Saska­toon.

“It’s to the point where we’ve heard enough,” said Fran­soo, who farms in the Glaslyn area, about 200 kilo­me­tres north­west of Saska­toon.

“They (the rail­ways) just have to move our grain in a timely fash­ion ... They can talk about their cars, their lo­co­mo­tives and the peo­ple they’ve hired, but the proof is in the pud­ding.”

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment passed the Trans­porta­tion Mod­ern­iza­tion Act in May to make rail­ways ac­count­able for poor ser­vice. It in­cludes fi­nan­cial penal­ties for fail­ure to de­liver promised rail cars for grain ship­ments on time.

Canadian Pa­cific Rail­way Ltd. said in June that it ex­pects to have more than 500 new high-ca­pac­ity grain hop­per cars in ser­vice be­fore the end of 2018.

The Cal­gary-based com­pany placed an ini­tial or­der for 1,000 cars from Hamil­ton-based Na­tional Steel Car, and ex­pected to or­der a to­tal of about 5,900 of the grain hop­pers over the next four years.

It also said that it plans to in­vest more than half a bil­lion dol­lars as part of its com­mit­ment to the North Amer­i­can agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

Ri­val Canadian Na­tional Rail­way Co. an­nounced a sim­i­lar or­der of 1,000 hop­per cars in May, also from Na­tional Steel Car.

Both com­pa­nies said their or­ders were fa­cil­i­tated by fed­eral gov­ern­ment changes that en­cour­age rail­ways to make in­vest­ments to avert ser­vice dis­rup­tions.

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