Ottawa tables legislation to clear grain transportation backlog

The federal government has tabled legislation aimed at increasing the movement of grain that has been left sitting in bins across the Prairies due to a transportation bottleneck.

Legislation could potentially allow more service by more rail companies

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announces new legislation to better move Canada's grain backlog in the foyer of the House of Commons Wednesday March 26, 2014 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal government has tabled legislation aimed at increasing the movement of grain that has been left sitting in bins across the Prairies due to a transportation bottleneck.

The legislation proposes the Canadian Grain Commission regulate how much a grain company will pay to a farmer if the company doesn't meet delivery dates set out in a contract.

It also aims to extend what are called inter-switching limits from 30 kilometres to 160 kilometres in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Most grain elevators on the Prairies are only served by one railway and expanding inter-switching would allow more service by more rail companies.

Another change would enshrine a previous government order for Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways to move a minimum amount of grain or face a penalty of up to $100,000 a day.

The legislation would not increase the penalty or direct fines to farmers instead of federal coffers, which is what Saskatchewan and Alberta have called for.