Federal grain action welcome news, Sask. Ag. Minister says

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart says the province is pleased with Ottawa's action on the backlog of Prairie grain.

With infographic: Just how much grain is there?

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said the measures introduced by Ottawa Friday are a good first step in solving the grain backlog problem.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart says the province is pleased with Ottawa's action on the backlog of Prairie grain.

On Friday, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said an order-in-council is going to cabinet that will force the railways to ship specific amounts of grain each week.

Raitt said the minimum would be set at 500,000 tonnes, which works out to 5,500 grain cars each for Canadian National and Canadian Pacific.

Many Prairie farmers had a bumper crop last year, but there's a shortage of rail cars and a lot of that grain is still in the bin and hasn't been shipped to port. Until the grain gets shipped, the farmers don't get paid.

The railways say the cold weather has been a factor, affecting how train brakes work, and has forced them to use shorter trains.

But some farmers say CN and CP are simply opting to make grain transportation a lower priority than other types of cargo.

Premier Brad Wall talks to reporters Friday about federal action on grain transportation. (Aldo Columpsi/CBC)

A number of Saskatchewan politicians, including Premier Brad Wall and Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, had been asking for a tougher stance.

Stewart says mandating that a certain amount of grain move every week is a good first step.

"It'll make a considerable difference I believe. The railways certainly have the capacity to deliver these numbers and more and now, what's been lacking is the will to do it," he said.

The big proposed fines should help to give railways an added incentive to get the grain moving, he said.

Federal moves should help, Wall says

Wall said he was pleased the federal government acted.

"We had asked for immediate action including emergency legislation to be introduced and we are pleased the federal government has made this commitment," Wall said. "Clearing this grain transportation backlog has been the number one priority for our government and these federal measures will help our producers to finally get their product to ports."



With files from Canadian Press


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