(Regina) The Agricultural Producers Assocation of Saskatchewan (APAS) has asked the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to implement an immediate moratorium on railway delisting of producer car loading sites, including 24 locations in Saskatchewan.
The province's umbrella farm group submitted a formal Level of Service Complaint to the CTA on December 23, adding its voice to the growing chorus of individuals and farm groups encouraging the Canadian Transportation Agency, Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister John Baird, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Gerry Ritz and Minister of State for Transport Rob Merrifield to investigate and address the service complaints raised by individual producers against railway companies regarding the delisting and imminent salvaging of producer car loading sites across the prairies.
CN's decision to close 53 sites across the prairies was discussed in detail at APAS' midterm meeting earlier this month and resulted in a formal motion being passed by the members that: "APAS immediately lobby the federal government to extend the moratorium on railway siding closures."
"No one in the province wants to wake up on January 1, 2010 with fewer options for prairie farmers to ship their grain," said Greg Marshall, APAS President. "As the year closed, APAS and many other farm organizations have continued to urge government to protect the legislated right of farmers to choose between delivering to primary elevators or to load their own producer cars."
APAS was encouraged that on December 8th, 2009, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Foods agreed that "the Committee recommend to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that the Government of Canada take such steps, commence such inquires and/or amend such Canadian legislations or regulations as may be required to forthwith prevent the delisting and subsequent closure, for which notice was given by Canadian National, of 53 designated producer car loading sites in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and the removal of the shunt lines providing service to such sites, for such period of time that the Government of Canada, in its opinion and in consultation with all stakeholders, determines advisable and in the best interest of all concerned.'
In APAS' formal Level of Service Complaint to the CTA, the organization points out that by delisting the 53 sites, CN is contravening its obligations in the Canadian Tranportation Act which requires railways to provide adequate and suitable service to producers who choose to use producer cars. "In essense the univerally accepted right to producer cars will be no right at all if there is no practical way for producers to access these loading sites. This needs to be dealt with by the federal government sooner rather than later," concluded Marshall. "A moratorium on the removal of all sidings should be enacted until the issse can be formally addressed by the federal Rail Freight Service Review.
APAS believes forwarding the issue to the Service Review will allow for the necessary consultations, including direct input from Saskatchewan grain producers, to develop the processes, mechanisms, or agencies that will safeguard producers’ rights and properly account for the future role of producer cars.
CN has only agreed to delay their plans until the start of the 2010 when they formally finish the delisting process. Producers groups say that if the CTA and Transport Canada do not take action on this issue immediately, the opportunity to preserve this valuable rural infrastructure will be lost for good.
-30-For More information
Greg Marshall, APAS President
Office: (306) 789-7774 ext 151
Cell: (306) 789-7774 ext 211 or direct at (306) 746-7747
Nial Kuyek, APAS General Manager
Office: (306) 789-7774 ext 154
Cell: (306) 789-7774 ext 212