Feds set weekly grain shipping quotas for rail companies

Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on...

Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Jessica Hume, National Bureau

, Last Updated: 5:31 PM ET

OTTAWA — A government-ordered weekly grain shipment quota for railways was welcomed by industry officials.

Last year, Canada's grain farmers experienced a bumper crop — 33% larger than average. What could have been a boon ended up a bust when the coldest temperatures in 60 years forced rail companies to shorten car lengths and reduce the amount of freight.

The bottleneck has resulted in dozens of ships waiting at Vancouver harbours for the grain to arrive.

On Friday, federal cabinet introduced an order for CN and CP to move 500,000 metric tonnes of grain weekly. Not only do the companies have to prove they moved the grain with supporting documentation, but failure to comply will lead to fines of $100,000 a day. The order is effective immediately.

The feds also said they'd introduce emergency legislation after a two-week parliamentary March break.

CP issued a statement earlier in the week explaining that "when weather is this cold, we must take steps such as reducing train lengths to continue to move freight and ensure safety."

On Friday, CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said he is "disappointed" by the "unfortunate" move.

"The actions of the federal government raise more questions than they answers and only focuses on the railways and not the entire supply chain," he told QMI Agency. "Moving grain from the farm to the port is a complex pipeline involving many parties."

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart praised the move.

"Producers have ultimately been left bearing the cost for this crisis and we fully expect every player in the supply chain to do their part," he said.

NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau said farmers who've been unable to move their goods should also be compensated.


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