WHAT A MESS
For the last 40 plus years I have been farming. Every single year I signed contracts to sell and move my product (grain) into the world market system. It was moved in an orderly, timely manner.
Every one of those years, regardless of my grain supply, I got the world grain price for my product. By the way, every one of those years I had to sign a contract with the Canadian Wheat Board. Every year at this time, I had moved into the market system between 50 and 70 percent of my for-sale product.
This year I signed contracts to move my product into the same world market system through a number of different marketing doorways. I, to date this crop year (early March), have only moved about 15 percent of my for-sale product.
The in-hand contracts show delivery dates that would put me at the same level as all the past years. Those same contracts guarantee me a set price.
World prices have been steady, however any additional grain I may have for sale is locally at a level of just over half of the world prices.
Low grain movement levels, plus dropping local prices, are, quite matter of factly, disgusting.
In the past two months, I have heard from many farmers in different marketing positions. One farms in the shadow of an elevator and sold every bushel from the field straight into the elevator without a contract. A second, who signed contracts, is still waiting for a bushel to move.
Any one else who signed a contract is at some grain movement level between those two. And yet there are some who never signed a contract and now wonder why they cannot get world prices.
Post Canadian Wheat Board agRitzaculture is quite a mess.
Contrary to the claims made by agriculture minister Gerry Ritz (Letter to the Editor, March 6), his Agricultural Growth Act, Bill C-18, actually does not give farmers rights to save, clean and reuse their seed. Instead, these protocols are listed under farmers’ privilege.
While some of Canada’s senators may not understand the difference between rights and privileges, most farmers do.
Rights are worthy of legal protection and enforcement. Privileges rely on special treatment that can easily be withdrawn or erased. Privileges are not enforceable.
Bill C-18 reduces farmers’ rights over seeds to easily erased privileges. That’s a huge loss for farmers.
So while accusing others of “willful ignorance of the contents” of Bill C-18, minister Ritz is himself willfully deceiving Canadians about those contents.
PAY MORE, GET LESS
A railway friendly economist will say that you must pay more to get better service. Unfortunately for farmers, when it comes to grain transportation the opposite is true.
Terry Whiteside, chairman of the U.S. Rail Shippers Alliance, provided documented evidence that shippers in the U.S. who pay the highest rates get the poorest service.
These shippers are captive to shipping only by rail, just like prairie farmers. They have no options and the railways know it. The railways have to compete for freight that is not rail dependent, so they give it priority over grain that is captive. Railways get guaranteed business from captive shippers no matter how badly they treat them.
The former CWB is the only shipper that successfully sued the railways for discriminatory service against farmers.
In that 1998 court case, the railways were blaming the weather for their dismal service. They called it “the winter from hell.” This winter, the railways are using their weather excuse once again.
In 1998, the single desk CWB had the data and the clout to prove that once the mountains were cleared, the railways discriminated against grain shippers by servicing grain last.
To the railways’ delight, (agriculture) minster (Gerry) Ritz stole the farmers’ hammer by creating a neutered CWB. It no longer has the clout, the data or the mandate to defend farmers in 2014. With their hammer gone, farmers watched helplessly as the railways moved them to the back of the line.
I was shocked to learn the railways are now telling Ottawa, “the revenue cap is the problem and farmers should pay more if they want better service”. To that I say, hogwash. With the revenue cap gone, captive shippers and farmers would be vulnerable to even more abuse.
I am writing about certain issues regarding biosecurity on farms and farmland.
A lot of farmers are having trouble with soil borne diseases like clubroot, as well as many other weeds.
There has to be a mandatory biosecurity protocol for Saskatchewan Crop Insurance field personnel adjusters that includes having clean boots, clothing and clean tires on quads and other vehicles before entering farmland.
Also, biosecurity protocol must be used by all other companies such as surveyors, gas, oil, electrical, hail insurance and wildlife officers, as well as hunters, to help stop the spread of clubroot, other evasive weed seeds and diseases from farm to farm.…
Inspectors and visitors must first put on clean footwear, coveralls and gloves to stop the spread of major diseases, just like when the veterinarian comes to a farm,and stops to put on clean footwear, clothing and gloves to stop farm-to-farm diseases.
All livestock facilities must have bio walk-on mats to make sure the people who come and go don’t spread diseases.
OPEN RUNNING RIGHTS
As every other grain farmer in my area, I am waiting on rail cars, only two months behind.
This is not a crisis, it is a national disaster, with a cost to the western Canadian grain sector of $2 to $4 billion and loss of confidence by overseas grain customers in our ability to meet contracts.
This has set us back 10 years and highlighted the dire situation we have in our rail system.
As the railways move towards greater efficiency to satisfy shareholders such as Bill Gates (who has 12 percent of Canadian National Railway shares), inadequate capacity has been left in the system for the unknown; that is, a huge grain crop.
The government announced a five-year study into the problem. I think we need a little faster response than that.
I would like to see open running rights on our rail system. One company would own and operate the rail tracks and then other companies can buy time to run on the tracks, just like an airport.
One company owns the airport and airlines pay to land and operate there, with more than one carrier being able to use that facility.
This would lead to competition in the rail transport sector, or at worst would allow other companies to either move their own commodities or contract with other carriers.
Since the Conservative party re-moved the Canadian Wheat Board in the name of choice and free enterprise, now they should bring about open running rights in the name of choice and free enterprise.
I hope the voices that were so loud in wanting the CWB dismantled are now focusing on the railroad system.
The Conservative party should support this move as they are the party of free enterprise.
CN and Canadian Pacific are lobbying the American government for open running rights on their rail system, but don’t want it here.
The prairie economy is so dependent on the railroads. It’s time to invest in it to meet future demands.
I hope someone at the canola council has told the railways to be ready for 25 million tones of canola in 2025.
We’ll probably be there sooner rather than later as farmers react quickly to opportunities.