Frustrated Farmers Want Grain Moved

A colder than usual winter means trains can't haul as many cars, making it harder to transport grain from Prairie farms following a bumper crop last fall. (Troy Fleece/Canadian Press)


Grain farmers are angry as they watch trains full of oil roll to market leaving them wondering why so few are available to move their product to market. It's a political crisis in the making as a bumper crop threatens to become a bumper flop.

"I'm telling the opposition that our government has been actively engaged on this file for a very long time with all the stakeholders in the industry. Farmers know we will take action".

Pierre Lemieux, parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Agriculture
The government hasn't taken action fast enough for some grain farmers and Pierre Lemieux, the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Agriculture, had to fend off some angry questions yesterday in Question Period.

The bumper crop of wheat and canola seems more curse than blessing for many farmers. Huge amounts of grain can't be moved because of logjams on the railroads.  CN and CP blame cold weather,  for mechanical reasons, the frigid temperatures demand shorter trains.  Critics say there seems to be plenty of cars to carry  more lucrative oil shipments.  Grain elevators across the prairies are maxed out and farmers worry about the future of their crops. Dennis Gallant is a farmer in Warren, Manitoba.  He grows wheat, canola and barley. We reached him at his home.

The backlog of grain is causing worries across the prairies and beyond.  Brenda Tjaden Lepp is a co-founder and Chief Analyst of Farmlink Marketing Solutions, an organization that advises grain farmers. She's been watching the situation closely and joined us from Winnipeg.

The Current requested interviews with CN, CP, the Minister of Transportation Lisa Raitt and the Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz. No one was available to speak.

But in recent weeks, provincial politicians have loudly advocated on behalf of frustrated farmers with no way to get grain to market.  Not least of these has been Alberta Premier Alison Redford. Recently, Premier Redford said the grain transport problem, "Will continue to grow unless appropriate steps are taken."

To expand on this we were joined by her agriculture minister, Verlyn Olson. He was near Camrose Alberta.

Have thoughts you want to share on this discussion?

Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or e-mail us through our website. Find us on Facebook. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And as always if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Howard Goldenthal, and Leif Zapf-Gijle.

Comments are closed.