With much of last year's harvest still in the bins, and with new grain transportation rules due Friday, Saskatchewan's NDP is continuing to push for higher transport-volume requirements and stringent regulations that meet the needs of Saskatchewan's producers.
The federal agriculture and transportation ministers have committed to review the mandatory transport-volume requirements and finalize new grain transportation regulations by Aug. 1.
But, the official Opposition is questioning why Saskatchewan’s producers have still not seen a draft of the regulation changes, and why the provincial government hasn’t demanded answers on their behalf.
“Producers are still facing a 15 million tonne carryover this year. They can’t afford for the government to drop the mandatory volume requirements now,” said NDP agriculture critic Cathy Sproule. “The government’s requirements were too weak to begin with – if anything, the volumes should be increased to clear the backlog. And the new grain transportation regulations need to help producers instead of just making life easier for the big rail companies.”
Sproule said transport naturally picked up somewhat during warmer weather, but she has been hearing from producers that rail companies are fulfilling the weak volume requirements with short-haul trips instead of the prairie routes that would benefit Saskatchewan producers most.
The NDP is calling for a number of changes to benefit producers, consumers and Saskatchewan’s economy.
- Railways should be required to disclose their capacity, so producers and grain marketers have the information they need to make informed business decisions;
- A fair access regulation should be put in place for producer cars and short-lines;
- Reporting requirements about how much grain is being trucked to the United States should be strengthened;
- Reporting of the basis should be improved;
- Service level agreements between shippers and railways must contain reciprocal penalties; and
- Mandatory volume requirements for rail companies should be increased until carryover levels are reasonable, followed by an extension of a long-term volume legislative mechanism to accommodate the new norm in the farming sector.
The NDP has previously called for open running rights for rail companies to create more competition and more transportation options for producers.