The province of Saskatchewan is asking the federal government to introduce emergency legislation to deal with a grain transportation backlog. Premier Brad Wall introduced the motion on the first day of spring sitting at the legislature
Grain farmers across Western Canada are facing a transportation backlog with bumper crop sitting in bins for months. Monday's call to Ottawa was supposed to be a last result but Premier Wall said Saskatchewan has now reached that point.
Grain farmers across Western Canada have heard enough talk and now they want to see action to solve the rail back-log because the longer they wait, the more money they stand to lose.
Norm Hall with the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan says demurrage penalties over delayed shipments to seaports are skyrocketing for grain companies. Last year he said the record for total demurrage payments was $23 million.
“At the six month mark we were at $25 million already with possibilities of hitting $53 to $70 million,” Hall explained.
The spring session of the legislature kicks off Monday and Saskatchewan politicians are ready to get down to work.
“Certainly the number one issue in the province today is the backlog in commodity transportation. There’s just no question about it,” Premier Brad Wall told reporters last week.
Wall says clogged rail lines will be a focus for the province this sitting. The plan is to keep putting pressure on the federal government to take action with rail lines and grain companies.
Shareholders in the Weyburn Inland Terminal (WIT) will decide Friday if the independent farmer-owned facility will be taken over by the Winnipeg-based grain company Parrish and Heimbecker.
Dale Mainil resigned from the terminal board of directors in protest over the sale and has been rallying opposition among shareholders ever since.
“Farmers can control and dictate the future of grain handling and that’s what’s happening and we don’t want to lose that,” he said. “There’s as much need now for an independent as there was 37 years ago.”
Earlier this week Premier Brad Wall hinted that a possible answer to the ongoing issues with the rail back log would be to ship grain south to the U.S. In fact construction is well underway on the Northgate Commodity Logistics Hub in southeastern Saskatchewan which could ready to meet that demand within the year.
Michael Detlefsen is the President and CEO of Ceres Ag Corp which broke ground on the $90 million rail terminal last summer.
While politicians demand answers from rail companies, grain farmers across Saskatchewan are trying to figure out how to pay off their loans this year because are still waiting to cash in on their harvest.
20-year-old Tanner Borsa started buying land west of Melfort last year, but with no contracts to ship his crop he is worried about making mortgage payments.
Premier Brad Wall says it may be time to look at shipping grain through the United States instead of waiting for rail companies to ship to eastern and western sea ports.
Wall is frustrated over a grain backlog that has left a record crop sitting in bins across the Prairies.
“While the U.S. transportation system isn’t perfect, they certainly have not had the degree of trouble we’ve had,” he said.
Wall noted that there seems to be greater competition and capacity to handle the crop on railways in the U.S.
The province is hoping the federal government will get negotiations between CP Rail, CN Rail, and grain companies moving.
Minister of Economy Bill Boyd says in his conversations with rail lines and grain companies, both sides are willing to come up with level of service agreements.
“Unless we see dramatically higher rail service, dramatically higher car unloads at the various port positions, this will go into 2015 at the earliest,” said Boyd during an interview on John Gormley Live Monday.
A provincial delegation looking into problems with grain shipping is going back and forth between grain companies and rail companies to get answers about how to solve some major rail delays.
Horse trainers trotted out their best at the third annual Equine Expo’s trainers competition at Prairieland Park this weekend.
Over the course of the three-day event, competitors had three hours to train their own young horse who had never been ridden before.
At the final competition on Sunday, trainers must guide their horse through a series of tests and obstacles to show who has helped their horse improve the most over the weekend.