Provincial Government Engaging APG and Other Industry Groups About Rail Issues (PCN Fall 2014) SEP 25 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.
The Government of Alberta is engaging shippers and industry groups, including the Alberta Pulse Growers, about their experiences with rail service in order to make recommendations to the Canada Transportation Act Review.
“Everybody knows about the grain backlog that brought a lot of attention to rail service issues,” said Peter Kuperis, Director of Domestic and International Trade Policy for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “When (the Alberta) Government started digging into that, we discovered that there were rail service issues experienced across a number of commodities: Oil and gas, forestry and grain. So a cross-ministry task team was established to look at rail transportation of commodities and to come up with some short, medium and longterm actions that the Government of Alberta can take to try and ensure that all shippers have access to the rail services they require.”
One of the bigger actions that the Alberta Government took is to create this team on which Kuperis represents Agriculture and Rural Development. There are also representatives from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Energy, International and Intergovernmental Relations, and other ministries.
This summer, members of the task team spoke to shippers of agricultural, mining, forestry, and oil and gas products about their experiences with rail service over the past few years, including what challenges they have, how dependent they are on rail, and what possible solutions they would like to see.
“We know that the grain industry is growing and last year’s crop is a rarity now but might not be in the future,” Kuperis said. “Oil and gas and all of the industries are projecting fairly sizeable increases in exports, so we know the demand on rail is going to continue to increase. We need to re-examine how rail is regulated, how things are working, and whether there are infrastructure needs.”
The Government of Alberta will be making a submission to the review of the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) based on its discussions with shippers and producer groups. Kuperis said that the task team is still developing its recommendations, but they are hearing some common themes from shippers. These include seeking clearer definitions for the railways’ responsibilities, the need for commercial penalties, and improving shipper protection mechanisms.
There’s a Transportation Summit planned for the New West Partnership provinces of Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan in November. People from the different shipping industries, railways and government have been invited in order to discuss how to make the rail system more efficient into the future.
“We’re getting good feedback from shippers,” Kuperis said. “We’re just about done that process of engaging shippers the first time around and we’re going to start developing some positions for the Canada Transportation Act review and looking at some other actions that the Alberta Government might be able to take to help improve rail service. We’re going to be watching really closely this fall because we have another average to good crop coming in according to projections and a fairly sizeable carryover, so the amount of crop we have to move after harvest will be fairly similar to what we had last year.”
Alberta Pulse Growers has been fortunate to be one of the industry groups invited to participate in regular transportation updates from ARD Deputy Minister Jason Krips.
The federal Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act (Bill C-30) was passed in May and promised to expedite the movement of agricultural products and other commodities to market. Kuperis said that the Government of Alberta also made submissions to the federal government for Bill C-30 and some of their recommendations were reflected in the final legislation.
APG, along with pulse grower organizations across the country, recognized the need for improved transportation system performance nine years ago, and made significant investments of producer check-off dollars in Pulse Canada’s work on the transportation issue on behalf of the pulse industry. Canada’s pulse industry is now viewed as a national leader in this area and has been successful in uniting shippers of other products to address shortcomings in our rail system.
“APG continues to work with Pulse Canada to ensure that specialty crops like pulses are not left out from hauling,” said APG Chair Richard Krikke. “As a result of investment by APG’s levy payers, Pulse Canada was the only shipper group in the country to develop a service level agreement based on industry recommendations and promote the package to the Rail Freight Service Review Panel.”
In the last year, APG has invested check off money through Pulse Canada to help fund a multi-year, multi-commodity effort to develop a rail forecasting and performance measurement program.