Railways should match capacity to market demand: Chorney

Doug Chorney_ADawson_c_opt.jpegThe railways need to be more like farmers, gearing up capacity when it’s needed, says Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) president Doug Chorney.

The railways prefer to move Canada’s crop to market evenly over the crop year, he said. The railways complain there are often times when surplus grain-moving capacity goes to waste. But that’s just the reality of agriculture, Chorney told reporters Oct. 17, during KAP’s general council meeting.

“I told them (railways) I don’t buy that excuse,” he said. “I also have a shed full of equipment on my farm that requires seasonal use and extreme capacity in short durations. If you choose to be benefiting from the agricultural industry throughout the year you have to gear up to deal with that.

“You cannot have farm equipment sized to do one week of farm work 52 weeks a year. It doesn’t work that way. Same thing with moving our grain. If that means you have to have cars parked part of the year the cost has to be worked into the service you are providing.”

Grain transportation has and will continue to be an important issue for KAP, said Chorney, who is on the Crops Logistics Working group established by the federal government to help the grain sector find ways to measure railway service, or the lack of it.

New legislation compelling the railways to reach level-of-service agreements with shippers lacks teeth, Chorney said.

Railways influence sales

Chorney said he was told by a senior grain company official that the railways have so much power they can often determine where grain will be shipped instead of the grain company. Recently there were some attractive grain markets in Chicago, but the railway wanted to ship the grain to Vancouver, Chorney said, presumably because it was more profitable for the railway.

“Traders make a deal but the railway won’t move it there, then it’s all for not,” Chorney said.

With record grain production in Western Canada this fall timely grain transportation is more critical than ever, he said.

“If I had a nickel for every time a train didn’t come in (as scheduled) I wouldn’t need to grow soybeans to make a living,” Chorney said. “We have to change that because the (country) terminals go to great efforts to man-up their facilities to load. It might be on the weekend and suddenly the train doesn’t show up. (Then) farmers can’t deliver grain.

“If we’re growing a crop that we can’t ship to our customers it’s really all for not, so this is a critical thing we as a farm group need to keep working on.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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