Siemens Says – We attended the annual meeting of the Western Wheat Growers Association in Washington D.C. and am writing this column from our DC hotel listening, reading, and watching reports of snow and more snow at home.
One reason for going to the WCWG’s convention was to find out if the organization that I’ve followed, worked with and worked for is still relevant. Why do I say that you may ask, well for one the big issue the Wheat Growers tackled since the day I discovered them getting marketing freedom for all farmers. That happened with the removal of the old CWB in 2012 thanks to then Ag minister Gerry Ritz and prime minister Harper.
It’s refreshing to mingle, work with, listen and interact with those making the WCWGA still very much alive and relevant in today’s farming environment. The farm associations, commodity groups, and now commissions all have their place working on behalf of commodity and crop-specific farmers. However, the Wheat Growers, a voluntary group can take on the issues that matter to their membership specifically, don’t have to be politically correct, and can move on the issue.
Grain transportation or the lack thereof in the current go-around high on the list for every farmer in Western Canada got an excellent airing-out at the convention in DC.
Jeff Nielsen is the president of the Grain Growers of Canada. Also, a Wheat Growers member gave me his perspective on the current situation.
“Well, it’s a very frustrating fallout right now. You look at CN’s performance numbers on car movement have dropped off the map. We’re hearing parts of northern Saskatchewan, northern Alberta that hasn’t seen trains for quite some time, and contracts that are backing up. People are still waiting to deliver their December contracts, and now we’re into March, it snowballs and pushes everything back,” Nielsen said. “We need to see Bill C-49 pass with a couple of minor amendments that we propose. One is just a better definition of a long haul inter switching and allowing soybeans under the MRE, [maximum revenue entitlement]. Soybeans in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are one of the fastest growing crops and moving into Alberta fast too, and we need to see those producers have the same benefits from the MREs that the rest of us do.”
Bill C-49 is in front of the Senate waiting for revision and passage. As it’s written right now, initially introduced in the House of Commons last spring — would give grain shippers the right to charge railways with reciprocal penalties for poor service. Alos, increase the powers of the Canadian Transportation Agency, and clarify the definition of “adequate and suitable” service by railways — changes that grain industry stakeholders and farm groups have been requesting for many years.
Jeff told me things are pretty good on his farm. I’m on a CP line, so it’s hasn’t been too bad. But we’re seeing traffic coming over from CN line, which is 40 miles away, to our facilities, because those producers are having troubles moving grain on their rail line.
So as I said, the Wheat Growers are still very relevant, and I’m looking forward to hearing and writing about their work on behalf of their farmer members.