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Canadian Canola Growers Association files rail-service complaint with CTA


The Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) recently filed a "level of service" complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) contending that CN and Canadian Pacific did not fulfill their common-carrier obligations for the movement of Western Canadian grains and oilseeds this crop year.

The 2013-14 shipping record shows the Class Is were inadequate in meeting the needs of grain shippers, according to the CCGA, which represents the interests of more than 43,000 canola farmers. Poor rail service resulted in several consequences for canola farmers, including "unprecedented carryout stocks" that will negatively impact the markets for several years to come, and a potential shrinking or loss of international markets due to perceived vulnerability and ineffectiveness of the Canadian supply chain, association officials said in a press release.

"Ultimately, it is farmers who are bearing the cost of this supply chain failure. Farmers simply cannot tolerate a repeat of this year’s events," said CCGA President Brett Halstead, a farmer from Nokomis, Saskatchewan.

Farmers have repeatedly asked for more predictable, timely and efficient rail service, and commercial accountability from all supply-chain participants, association officials said.

"This complaint is about clarifying the statutory obligations of the railways to provide suitable and adequate service, now and for the future," said CCGA Chief Executive Officer Rick White.

The CTA will investigate the complaint and expects to issue a determination within 120 days.

CN officials contend that the complaint isn't about a service failure by the Class I, but about a 100-year crop and what turned out to be the worst winter‎ in decades.

"CN is moving record grain volumes so far this crop year and has fared better than all other railroads during this difficult winter. The [CCGA's] complaint is unfounded and ill-advised," CN officials said in an emailed statement. "[We] will vigorously defend [our] record and reputation in front of the Canadian Transportation Agency."

In May, CN expects to deliver an average of 5,450 hopper cars per week to Western grain elevators, just as the railroad promised the ministers of agriculture and transport before the Canadian government issued a grain-movement order in March, they said. As of Week 43, the Class I will be about 3 percent above its previous best and 12 percent above its average‎ performance crop-to-date despite a slow start by grain companies and the brutal winter, which affected lumber and potash movements more than grain, CN officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/28/2014