CALGARY, AB: Today, Western Canadian Wheat Growers President Levi Wood (grain farmer at Pense, SK) and Chair Jim Wickett (grain farmer at Rosetown, SK) released the following statement in response to the announcement on the federal Transportation 2030 plan, specific to the grain handling and transportation system in western Canada, as outlined this morning in Montreal by the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport.
“The announcement by Minister Garneau this morning is good news for western grain farmers, shippers, and our customers at home and abroad. By stating this morning that ‘we need goods to get where they’re going’, it’s clear Minister Garneau—and Minister MacAulay—have been listening and are now taking concrete action, which we commend.
“The Western Canadian Wheat Growers have been advocating for improved levels of service in a grain handling and transportation system that is demand-driven and based more on real commercial terms. The announcement of legislation to be introduced early next year will allow for reciprocal penalties to be negotiated in service level agreements, and will better define ‘adequate and suitable’ in the Canada Transportation Act—these are big steps in the right direction.
“Commercial accountability is essential. There is an imbalance of market power because of a lack of commercial accountability existing between the railways and grain shippers. Reciprocal penalties for poor performance and level of service should be in place for both parties in a given commercial transaction. The announced legislative changes coming in this regard will increase commercial accountability, providing recourse for farmers and shippers, and addressing poor service and performance issues—commercial accountability is key to greater economic growth and avoiding the next grain transportation crisis.
“The term ‘adequate and suitable’ is not well defined and has been the point of dispute between railways and shippers for many years. The rail service provision should be defined as demand-driven, or Canada’s economy will be hamstrung in efforts to fully capitalize on global marketing opportunities.
“The Wheat Growers support a commercial and efficient grain handling and transportation system, with predictable and reliable service. The 2013/14 crisis in grain transportation hit the entire value chain hard, damaging Canada’s strong brand and reputation, resulting in lost Canadian sales. The crisis cost us as farmers, and it cost grain handling firms, exporters, value-added processors, and, ultimately, the Canadian economy as a whole.
“The Wheat Growers thank Minister Garneau and Minister MacAulay for their work on this file, for meeting farmers in Saskatoon last month, and working with us to get this right. We thank and encourage them as they continue their work towards achieving these positive outcomes to improve our grain handling and transportation system, which will benefit Canada’s farmers, agriculture industry, and the national economy.”
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.