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Potential CP Rail strike has grain farmers concerned

“There have been weeks that there has not been any cars spotted at elevators. The shipping is not like its way ahead of schedule just because we had a half crop.”

Keith Fournier who farms south of Lloydminster is concerned as he looks at the challenges of this past growing season and the potential impact of failing labour negotiations on the rail.

His observations come as the Western Grain Elevator Association is calling on CP Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference to ramp up their deliberations to avoid a work stoppage, and as well an agreement by both parties to binding arbitration if a deal is not forthcoming.

Fournier notes that with the drought of the last growing season and rising input costs with things like fertilizer, the issue of the railway shifting resources has affected farmers’ ability to get grain to market.

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“Delivery opportunities have been pushed back and so maybe farmers are expecting to deliver in one month and they weren’t able to deliver. And therefore, they don’t get paid for a month later, and it pushes the cash that they have to operate on the farm now comes in a month down the road from what they were expecting.”

The Western Grain Elevator Association is concerned that as of Tuesday March 15th, CP train conductors and engineers will be in a strike position with 72 hours’ notice, or they could be locked out by CP management.

Fournier hopes that negotiations can prevent a rail stoppage which will have a much wider impact than just grain.

“My thoughts are that they get it settled before they get to that point where they go out on strike. It not only hurts the agriculture industry, but it hurts manufacturers. It hurts our economy right across the country.”

The Western Grain Elevator Association notes that if a work stoppage occurs, the impacts will be felt mostly by Canadian consumers at the grocery store, both in terms of price and supply.

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