Record Crops Sit In Storage

Wildrose MLA’s, Rod Fox, Lacombe- Ponoka present to learn agriculture producers's concerns  


 Wildrose MLA’s, Rod Fox, Lacombe- Ponoka and Rick Strankman, Drumheller -Stettler visited Ponoka, Wetaskiwin and Camrose on February 19th, 2013. Their visit was not intended to offer a Wildrose position on the grain backlog issue that farmers are facing.  Nor were they suggesting solutions. Instead, they were in the 3 communities seeking feedback from agricultural producers about how the delays in grain shipments were affecting them.  
    As the staff were setting up displays leading up to the session, MLA Fox explained, “Today is really about what is happening on the ground here and listening to those who are actually being affected. We are firm believers of Albertans coming forward with solutions. Right now what we are seeing is a problem with getting products to market. With this meeting, it is specifically geared to agricultural products but there are other products that may also be an issue getting to market. It may be forestry products and other things that are produced here in the province.”
    Unfortunately in Wetaskiwin, the Wildrose MLA’s, backed by Wildrose Policy and Research Analyst Bruce Kyereh-Addo and two other Wildrose staff members were only greeted by one urban Wildrose supporter and two media people.
    The Wildrose team came armed with an article Grain backlog frustrations dominate committee hearing written by Kelsey Johnson, Ipolitics, Nov 28, 2013.  Ipolitics describes itself as, “independent, non-partisan and committed to providing timely, relevant, insightful content to those whose professional or personal interests require that they stay on top of political developments in Ottawa and the provinces”. 

The following are excerpts from Ms. Johnson’s article:
•Frustrations over delays in grain shipments spilled over in the House agriculture committee Thursday, eclipsing an ongoing study of the Canada-European trade deal.
•Despite Agriculture Minister’s Gerry Rtiz’s repeated assurances that the rail system is doing an ‘adequate job” moving this year’s record harvest, producers and industry officials argued the system is simply unable to meet the demand.
•“Would we like to move more? There is no doubt about that, to access higher priced markets currently, but physically we just can’t do it,” Richard Wansbutter, a consultant with Viterra, told the committee.
•Despite a cold, wet spring, this year’s grain crop is 21 per cent larger than in previous years because of good summer weather and better seed varieties.
    The smiles on the faces of farmers following a perfect growing and harvesting season are starting to fade into looks of concern. Grain elevators across the prairies and western shipping ports are plugged, forcing farmers to store their grain on the farm. 
    In November, 2013 The Western Producer reported, “vessel waiting times at the Port of Vancouver this year are as bad as they’ve ever been, says the company that monitors grain movement for the federal government. Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp., said some ocean vessels scheduled to haul western Canadian grain to overseas customers waited nine weeks or longer to be loaded earlier this year. Other ships were partially loaded and then forced to wait for more grain as railways and export terminals matched incoming deliveries with waiting ships. Meanwhile, port terminal capacity at the West Coast is fully booked until late February or early March.
    As a result, farmers are missing out on strong grain prices. There is a lot of finger pointing. Some say the Federal government needs better regulations that hold the railways to account and when required, bring in more locomotive capacity and crews. They are suggesting the Western Canadian Grain Monitoring system, “a unique supply chain measurement program that tracks and monitors all aspects of the movement of grain grown in Canada from the farm gate to the time the ocean vessel departs from a port for export” is not performing well enough. 
    Demand for rail service in Canada is soaring. In the past two years, Statistics Canada says, oil shipments by rail have more than doubled – from 6,000 cars to 15,000 cars. Potash shipments are also expected to jump. At the same time, there is an increased demand to move more grain as production increases and the world requires more food. 
    CN claims that the cold weather impacted operations this winter. The use of shorter trains by CN during cold weather to ensure brakes can be used properly, reduces transportation of all commodities, including grain.
    On January 16, 2014 Farm Credit Canada (FCC) announced they are offering assistance to customers across the Prairies and in British Columbia affected by current grain marketing issues resulting from record high volumes.
    “Producers who have not already done so, are encouraged to consider applying to the federal Advance Payments Program (APP), a financial loan guarantee program that gives producers easier access to credit through repayable cash advances. Under the APP, the federal government guarantees repayment of cash advances issued to farmers by producer organizations. These guarantees help producer organizations borrow money from financial institutions to issue producers a cash advance on 50 per cent of the anticipated value of their farm product that is being produced or is in storage. Eligible producers can receive an APP advance of up to $400,000 at a preferential interest rate, with the government paying the interest on the first $100,000. Producers repay their advance, as their product is sold.”
    Customers are encouraged to contact their FCC relationship manager or the FCC Customer Service Centre at 1-888-522-2555 as soon as possible to discuss their individual situation and options.

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