Province to support federal grain legislation
by Phil Ambroziak
The provincial government is happy to know Saskatchewan’s grain crop will be moving sooner rather than later.
Last week, the federal government announced an Order in Council has been signed that will order railways to deliver one million tonnes of grain on a sustained level to domestic, U.S. and port positions. The announcement came only days after Premier Brad Wall introduced a motion in the legislature stating the province would support any form of emergency legislation brought forward by the federal government to address the grain transportation backlog currently impacting farmers throughout Saskatchewan.
“This has been a major issue – the number one economic issue in Saskatchewan right now,” remarked Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison. “Farmers haven’t been able to move their product to market.”
According to rail companies, the backlog was the direct result of both the immense size of the fall harvest as well as the cold weather experienced this winter. Shorter trains were being used because of the frigid temperatures, which resulted in less capacity being available to transport the grain.
“Last month, the premier appointed a delegation which met with grain companies and railways to encourage them to find a way to move forward with this,” Harrison continued. “Unfortunately, there was little movement since, so that’s when he decided to bring forward his motion as soon as the Legislature was back in session. The motion was passed unanimously, which proved Saskatchewan is speaking to this issue with one voice in a non-partisan manner.”
The federal order also calls for the issuing of fines of up to $100,000 per day for non-compliance, as well as for railways to report tonnage delivered on a weekly basis – news that sits well with Meadow Lake area producer Garry Ratke. When contacted prior to the recent announcement, Ratke said he was in favour of the government putting more pressure on the railways.
“I think they should fine the railways,” Ratke said. “I’m not sure how they could do that, but it would certainly wake them up.”
Many producers anticipated there could be a problem when the fall harvest proved to be as bountiful as it was and Ratke said local farmers have already experienced the effects of the slow down.
“There are people worse off than me, but I have grain that’s already sold still sitting in my yard,” he said. “I can’t move it. It should have already gone, but it’s still here.”
Ratke went on to note this sort of slow down is typical whenever there’s an exceptionally high yield.
“I remember, in the 1970s, my dad had 5,000 bushels of wheat that sat in the yard for five years before he could move it,” he said. “This sort of thing has been happening off and on for years – when there’s a big crop both here and around the world, it doesn’t help.”