The provincial government has requested specific measures be included in upcoming federal emergency legislation on grain transportation to help clear the current backlog and ensure this crisis is avoided in the future.
“Saskatchewan farmers harvested the largest crop in the province’s history but this achievement has been overshadowed by the transportation system’s inability to get grain to our customers around the world,” Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said. “In order to protect Canada’s reputation as a world-class exporter of agriculture products, we need a world-class transportation system that ensures our farmers can move their crop.”
The legislation, which is expected to be tabled when Parliament returns on March 24, will build on the March 7 emergency Order in Council that set minimum targets for railways of 11,000 cars a week and fines of up to $100,000 per day for failing to meet those targets.
The provincial government has submitted a number of specific requests to be included in the legislation.
Implementing mechanisms to ensure the accountability of grain shippers and railways, including mandatory Service Level Agreements with reciprocal penalties for non-compliance;
Increasing target shipments for railways to a minimum of 13,000 grain cars per week, with future increases as needed;
Increasing penalties for railways if this target is not met to a minimum of $250,000 per day to ensure compliance;
Fines collected from railways for failing to meet this target should directly benefit the producers who ultimately bear the costs of the system;
Implementing mechanisms and penalties to ensure grain companies fulfill contract obligations with producers;
Increasing inter-switching distances to improve rail service by increasing accessibility to a competing railway;
Ensuring railways provide service to domestic mills, U.S. customers, and shippers accessing all port facilities, including designating service requirements to all customers within the corridors;
Dispute resolution; and
Developing formal mechanisms that allow for timely monitoring, address existing information gaps, improve transparency and enable stakeholders to analyze the system’s performance.
“This has been our number one priority and we commend the federal government for introducing this emergency legislation,” Stewart said. “We need to get our farmers’ grain to market, ensure they get paid and find long-term solutions to long-standing grain transportation issues. In order to achieve this, there must be accountability throughout the supply chain, from farmers, to shippers, to railways and to port. We believe our recommendations for the legislation will help accomplish this.”