Western Canadian farmers’ use of producer cars for transporting wheat was the second highest in history in 2010-11, the Canadian Wheat Board says in a release.
Farmers loaded 12,784 producer cars in the past crop year, just below the record of 12,934 set two years ago. Producer-car use has increased dramatically over the past 15 years as farmers continue to invest in their own grain-loading facilities and short-line railroads in the aftermath of massive closures of Prairie elevators and railway branch lines.
“Farmers’ ability to use producer cars means they have an alternative to driving long distances to grain-company elevators, while saving $600 to $1,600 per car in handling charges,” said CWB board chair Allen Oberg. Direct savings to Prairie farmers totalled nearly $11 million in the last year. “The CWB has been committed to ensuring these options are available for all farmers.”
Saskatchewan farmer Tim Coulter, president of the Producer Car Shippers of Canada, said he has serious concerns about the future of producer cars, in light of the federal government’s plans to dismantle the CWB single desk next August.
“Our fear is that farmers will soon lose this valuable benefit,” said Coulter, a founding member of the Southern Rails Cooperative and the Briercrest Grain producer-car loading facility. “The government has given us no indication of how the Prairie producer-car system can possibly survive this change, nor have we been asked for our input.
“Producer cars work now because of the CWB. Grain companies have little interest in facilitating producer cars, since our cars are essentially in competition with their own services.” This competition, he added, results in benefits for all farmers like higher trucking incentives and lower grain-handl ing charges in areas where producer-car options are available.
There are more than 120 producer-car loading sites on the Prairies, as well as 14 short lines.
The vast majority of producer cars are used for wheat or durum wheat as part of the CWB’s overall export program, in collaboration with producer- car networks across the Prairies. Only 463 (about three per cent) were loaded with non-board grain last year.
The CWB enables use of producer cars by securing car supply and arranging their transportation with the major railways, and by ensuring they will be accepted at port terminals.