AAFC Minister discusses rail back log with grain sector

by Holly Demaree-Saddler
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Train tracks
 
OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA —Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is working toward ensuring Canadian shippers, producers, and trading partners have confidence and certainty that railways have the capacity to get their products to market as efficiently and quickly as possible.

AAFC Minister Lawrence MacAulay
Lawrence MacAulay, minister of the AAFC

“These current issues with the grain backlog must be resolved quickly, but we also need to ensure they’re not repeated,” said Lawrence MacAulay, minister of the AAFC. “This is one of the key reasons our government introduced Bill C-49, which gives grain shippers the tools they need. We are committed to working closely with farmers on this situation and we will continue to closely monitor the performance of the railways. We urge all parliamentarians to pass this critical piece of legislation as quickly as possible, because Canada needs a world-class transportation system not only for this year or next year — but for many years to come. Our farmers, our customers and our economy count on it.”

MacAulay met with representatives from the grain industry who form the Crop Logistics Working Group (CLWG). MacAulay wanted to hear first-hand about the rail service problems grain farmers and shippers are experiencing, and get the sector’s views on recent commitments made by the Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to address the situation.

The mandate of the Crop Logistics Working Group (CLWG) was recently renewed in May 2017 to provide an on-going forum where industry representatives can exchange views and identify supply chain challenges and opportunities, including throughout the implementation of the Transportation 2030 freight rail initiatives.

Grain industry representatives were in Ottawa to address the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on the grain transportation backlog. Minister MacAulay took the opportunity to meet with them to discuss the situation and measures the government has in place to assist producers affected by delays in grain delivery.

MacAulay has been working with Farm Credit Canada (FCC) to ensure producers have the financial flexibility they need to face cash flow pressures. FCC is available to support all its grain and oilseed customers potentially affected by delays in grain delivery in the three Prairie Provinces and British Columbia’s Peace region, and to explore options to address their individual needs. Producers also have access to tools such as the Advance Payments Program, which offers cash advances for a stored or planted crop of up to C$400,000, the first C$100,000 interest-free.

This meeting took place just two weeks after MacAulay and Transport Minister Marc Garneau wrote to CN and CP to express their significant concerns with the railways’ failure to meet the expectations of shippers and grain producers this winter. The ministers also asked for the railways to clarify how they intended to address the immediate backlog in moving western grain and other commodities to export markets. CN and CP have since responded to the ministers with a commitment to address the problems.

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