December 5, 2022

Agriculture sector growingly worried as CP Rail shutdown potentially days away

CP issued a lockout notice early Sunday morning, and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference issued its own strike notice Friday.

Ian Boxall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, says a rail strike should be a major concern for everyone, including all aspects of the agricultural sector.

“I think making sure that we get our inputs in place for this spring planting should be a concern with this potential strike. Also, the movement of feed grains that have been brought in from the states by rail for cattle ranchers who had a shortage of feed last year because of the drought, those are two of the biggest concerns for producers, you know, as this strike progresses.

James Bekkering, president of the NCFA, says any halt to trains entering Canada would be devastating to the Canadian beef industry.

“We have been facing food shortages over the past few months and are completely dependent on food from the United States.”

CCA President Bob Lowe says the feedlot industry in Saskatchewan and Alberta has a million head of cattle, which depend on the corn that comes in on CP Rail.

“If they go on strike and the trains don’t run in two weeks. You know, less than two weeks. It still has to get here and be unloaded. So if the trains don’t run, it’ll be a disaster animal There’s just no plan B. There’s no grit here to rely on…..it’s going to be a wreck.

Lowe says they have communicated with both negotiating parties and government officials about the absolute necessity that the trains keep running.

He says they remain hopeful of reaching a resolution and are happy to see them staying at the negotiating table.

Grain Growers of Canada President Andre Harpe is concerned about the impact a work stoppage would have on the agricultural supply chain.

He says that for grain farmers, the railways represent a lifeline, noting that the news leaves Canadian farmers in a particularly vulnerable position.

“This is the time of year when we receive critical deliveries of fertilizer and other inputs needed to put a crop in the ground. And we also need to transport what little grain our members have left after last year’s disappointing crop year to support our cash flow for spring planting. »

Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grains Elevator Association, agrees that a shipping shutdown has a number of implications for the grain sector.

“We have to deal with ship demurrage. We deal with contract extension penalties, contract defaults. Our reputation with our customers is down the toilet this year. It’s just terrible. You know, when we had a short harvest, they were expressing concern and, and we responded at that time. Yes, we’re about two-thirds of normal, but we should be able to get it to you in a timely manner. And that doesn’t did not happen.

Keith Currie, first vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, says that over the past two years we have certainly experienced what happens when the rails stop.

“We’ve had the blockades and the CN strike in the past. And it’s really, really crippled the country and crippled, food exports, the movement of food, supplies to and from the farm. And even though we certainly respect the collective bargaining process and everyone’s right This comes at a very crucial time for agriculture, as we prepare for spring planting, our agricultural inputs are starting to arrive on the farm and our produce is coming out. So it’s certainly very crucial to keep the transportation system working as we know it.”

The agricultural sector accepting the government must do what it can to prevent a disruption in the supply chain and consider designating the railways as an essential service.