“No accountability” in grain transportation system

Tyler Clarke
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Claiming that there’s “no accountability” in the grain transportation system, Saskatchewan Economy Minister Bill Boyd is looking to the feds for answers.



Hoping the federal government moves on this item “aggressively,” Boyd said that Premier Brad Wall-appointed committee has already laid the groundwork for the feds to take action.

“We’ve met now with the rail companies and both railway CEOS -- CP and CN -- and we’re calling on the federal government to move immediately to oversee negotiations between grain companies and CN and CP,” he explained.

The committee has come to the conclusion that what’s needed are “contractual agreements that bind with penalties the performance of their company to either load rail cars, unload rail cars or transport them to port positions.

“We think that’s necessary to provide contractual obligations with financial penalties attached them to get performance.”

With no financial penalties attached to the current system, “There’s no accountability,” Boyd argued.

“The system just kind of goes along haphazardly with no commitment to it. The only one who pays in this whole situation is farmers,” he said.

“If you contracted 500 tons of grain canola in September to an elevator company X, and elevator X didn’t take that grain in September, you don’t receive any compensation as a farmer.”

Boyd added that grain companies are in some cases charging two to three times the normal bases level (the deduction grain companies take for moving grain to port position).

“There’s no way to recover those dollars,” he concluded. “Those things are simply charged to your grain and you have no recourse, there.”

As for rail companies, “They come and they send a train in when they choose to send a train in, so there’s no real teeth in any of the obligations that they have, they just do it as they see fit.”

Financial penalties will give enforcement the teeth required, Boyd argued.

We’ve met now with the rail companies and both railway CEOS -- CP and CN -- and we’re calling on the federal government to move immediately to oversee negotiations between grain companies and CN and CP. Bill Boyd

With rail transportation federal jurisdiction, Boyd said that it’s in the next step is up to the federal government to facilitate discussion between rail and grain companies “as soon as possible.”

The grain transportation issue has been lingering for years, but began garnering headlines late last year as a result of a record Saskatchewan bumper crop.

The province’s current rail infrastructure is only adequate when it’s a normal crop year and conditions are perfect, Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart told the Daily Herald last month, clarifying that “we never have perfect conditions.”

A portion of last year’s record crop of 38.4 million tonnes, which surpassed the government’s long-term goal of 36.6 million that the government hoped to achieve by 2020, remains stagnant, Boyd said this week.

“The grain companies have indicated to us that, this year there’s going to be a 25 per cent carry-over in crop, which even if you put it onto a normal crop, and average crop, we’re right back into the same situation next fall that we’re into right now, or perhaps even worse.”

With this year’s record crop a hoped-for norm over the coming years, something has to be done soon, he concluded.

Neither of the railway companies Boyd sites as being involved in discussions -- Canadian National or Canadian Pacific -- was immediately available for comment by press deadline on Monday.

The committee Premier Brad Wall put together to tackle this issue includes Stewart, Boyd, Highways and Transportation Minister Don McMorris and Scott Moe, the legislative secretary to the ministry of agriculture.

The Daily Herald will continue to follow this story as it progresses.

Organizations: Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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