CALGARY, AB: The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is pleased with the Federal Court decision released last week which upheld a ruling giving Parrish & Heimbecker, Limited (P & H) the ability to gain competitive access to BNSF Railway on its grain shipments to the United States.
The initial ruling by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), issued on May 1, 2013, ordered Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to interchange traffic with the BNSF Railway at the interswitching rate prescribed by regulation under the Canada Transportation Act. Under the Act, shippers are allowed to apply for goods to be shipped at an interswitching rate whenever their shipping point is located within a specified distance of an interchange with another railway. The distance was set at 30 km at the time of the CTA ruling, but has since increased to 160 km for grain and other shippers in western Canada, following passage last year of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.
The CTA decision and Federal Court ruling applies to shipments from the P & H elevator at Milk River, AB, which is about 20 km from the CP interchange with BNSF at the border crossing at Coutts, AB. Other shippers within 160 km of the interchange will also be able to take advantage of an interswitching rate, which does vary depending on the distance to the interchange.
“The Wheat Growers are very pleased to see the Federal Court uphold the Agency decision,” says Levi Wood, President of the Wheat Growers. “The interswitching provision introduces a modest but important element of competition in the rail sector.”
The Decision by the Agency gave P & H the ability to ship grain on the CP track to the Coutts interchange at the prescribed interswitching rate of $315 per car (approximately $3.50 per tonne) which is far below the commercial rate that CP wished to charge of $1,373 per car (approximately $15.25 per tonne).
“The difference in rates of almost $12 per tonne improves the return on shipments to the U.S. market and gives P & H the ability to offer better prices to Canadian farmers,” says Wood. “Other shippers within the 160 km interswitching distance will also benefit from this ruling. Having the interswitching provision improves our industry’s competitiveness, while providing adequate compensation to the Canadian railway for its portion of the haul.”
The Wheat Growers note the CTA made a similar ruling in a case that involves Richardson and its application to gain access to an interswitching rate on grain shipments from its elevator on a CN line near Letellier, MB to an interchange with BNSF Railway at the border crossing at Emerson, MB.CN has appealed that ruling. The Wheat Growers hope the Federal Court ruling in the P & H case will establish a precedent and give Richardson and other companies the ability to access the BNSF network at competitive rates.
“The Wheat Growers applaud P & H and Richardson for taking these costly actions that ultimately serve them and the interests of farmers,” says Wood.
About the Wheat Growers:
Founded in 1970, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is a voluntary farmer-run advocacy organization dedicated to developing public policy solutions that strengthen the profitability and sustainability of farming, and the agricultural industry as a whole. For more information, please visit wheatgrowers.ca.