When grain doesn’t move, farmers don’t get paid
A decline in railway service for our grain sector has seen performance numbers drop dramatically, resulting in the worse grain backlog in years. Contracts are in jeopardy, demurrage costs are mounting and Canada’s reputation as a reliable grain exporter is on the line. There are currently between 30 and 40 ships sitting at ports on the BC coast waiting to be loaded with our grain, but none is getting out to fill them.
During the week of February 26, CN and CP supplied a combined 32% of hopper cars ordered – CN supplied 17% of the cars ordered, while CP supplied 50%. On a combined basis, that particular week yielded the poorest order fulfillment performance to date during the 2017-18 grain year. Last week saw a marginal improvement with CN and CP supplying 45% of cars ordered. This is still not nearly good enough.
This is a real crisis for our Prairie farmers who are now facing a critical cash flow problem. That is why the Conservative members of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee called for an emergency meeting held on March 7 to plead with the Liberals to face this crisis head on and work for Canadian farmers instead of leaving them as an afterthought yet again.
I attended this meeting on behalf of Saskatchewan grain farmers and I was disheartened by how the Liberals continue to fail to understand the situation. They refuse to see the urgency of the crisis and would only agree to another meeting to hear from producers on March 19th, though we kept asking for an earlier meeting. Liberals don’t understand that when grain doesn’t move, farmers don’t get paid, and they seem to be just fine taking the railways’ word that service will pick up.
Because of our advocacy, the evening before the emergency committee meeting we saw positive steps forward from CN and FCC to offer options for farmers facing cash flow issues, but that is not enough. Conservatives are calling on the Ministers of Transport and Agriculture to immediately implement an Order in Council to address the backlog and get our grain moving.
Time is of the essence and Justin Trudeau and his MPs must stop blaming others for Liberal mismanagement and take immediate action to resolve the backlog in grain delivery and provide the necessary tools to hold the railways accountable for inadequate service levels. Conservatives will continue to fight for Canadian farmers to have access to a logistics system that gets our commodities to market in a predictable and timely way.