Canada’s grain farmers urge speedy resolution to CN labour disruption

Reliable rail transportation is vital to agriculture and the economy as a whole

OTTAWA (November 19, 2019) – Grain farmers across Canada are calling on both sides of the Canadian National Railway (CN) labour dispute to work together to find a solution to their issues and get trains moving again. With the vast majority of grain being shipped to market by rail, a reliable transportation system is crucial to Canadian agriculture’s success.

“This strike comes at a terrible time for agriculture,” said Jeff Nielsen, Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) Chair. “Grain farmers from coast to coast are experiencing one of the most challenging harvests in recent memory and international trade disputes have closed some of our most reliable markets. Any delay in shipping will damage our access to hard-won markets that we must cultivate to survive.”

With upwards of 90 per cent of grains being moved by rail, the inability to get grain to market has a significant impact on hard working farm families. If grain doesn’t move, farmers don’t get paid.

With an early winter meaning excess moisture in many crops, farmers across Canada are seeing added costs from grain drying already eating into narrow profit margins. As of today, all propane deliveries to farms in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec have been halted, bringing an already late harvest to a standstill in those areas. Any stoppage of propane deliveries means that grain drying simply can’t happen causing grain spoilage in the bin and the field.

In addition, farmers have been forced to watch profits drop due to crops still in the field degrading in value. Any added loss in profit will not be manageable for many farmers who don’t have reliable, government supported business risk management programs to fall back on.

“Canadian farmers are ready to ship grain but are once again at the mercy of the railways,” said Markus Haerle, GGC Vice-Chair. “We know from the rail backlogs in recent years that any slowdown in service has serious consequences throughout the whole value chain. We are not in a position to weather yet another storm.”

“When one part of the grain handling system is not running, the whole chain shuts down,” added Shane Stokke, GGC Vice-Chair. “We know that CN is aware of the important role they play in the success of our industry and expect both parties to negotiate in good faith and get back to what they do best – getting Canadian products where they need to go.”

Grain Growers of Canada provides a strong national voice for over 65,000 active and successful grain, oilseed and pulse producers through its 16 provincial, regional and national grower groups. Our mission and mandate are to pursue a policy environment that maximizes global competitiveness and to influence federal policy on behalf of independent Canadian grain farmers and their associations.

Media Contact:
Lindsey Ehman – Manager, Communications & Stakeholder Relations
(o): 613-233-9954 ext. 202
(c): 613-222-2726