Farmers, rail companies facing challenges moving grain
The 2013 grain glut put pressure on farmers to find ways to unload, store excess levels of grain
It has been a dramatic year for grain farmers.
A massive bumper crop followed by a hard time moving it across the prairies inspired the federal government to get involved and force rail companies to move more grain.
Grain production was at record high levels in 2013 – so high, in fact, that many farmers had no better options but to store rather than sell excesses over winter.
Grain glut hard on farmers
The 2013 grain glut really affected farmers like Curtis McRae.
“It gets stressful because grain is a perishable item,” said McRae. “The longer you sit on it the greater chance you'll have spoilage.”
Nearly 76 tonnes were harvested last year – more than could be moved on the market – leaving no other choice for McRae but to shutter mass amounts of grain in bins on his property.
Some grain elevators were so full around the province that grain was stored in giant piles outside.
Now, on top of sitting on tonnes of grain, McRae is also holding out for prices to rise in hopes of getting more for his product.
CP, CN upping grain shipments
The federal government eventually stepped in and established rules on how much grain Canada's two main rail companies had to ship, hoping to ease some of the pressure from grain farmers.
Both CN and CP Rail said they are shipping more grain and boosting profits this summer.
There are fewer ships waiting for grain in the Vancouver port and near record levels being shipped out of Thunder Bay.
The railways said the grain would have moved anyway as the weather warmed up and shipping became easier.
But that's not how the grain companies see it.
“I don't think it would be in the magnitude it is,” said Keith Bruch with Paterson Global Foods “They were forced to put additional resources to grain, which I don't think would have happened without the mandate.”
Despite the increase in shipping, some think other farmers may not yet be out of the woods, with a lot of grain still waiting to be shipped.
“I think the pace has really picked up in terms of actually solving the glut problem,” said Derek Brewin from the University of Manitoba’s faculty of agriculture.
Brewin maintained, however, that the problem isn’t yet solved – that will depend on the size of this year’s crop.
Some experts have predicted bigger yields will soon become the norm.
McRae is just hoping when it comes time to move the grain this year, he'll have an easier time than last year.