Ag reacts to new railway wildfire prevention measures

Ag reacts to new railway wildfire prevention measures
Jul 15, 2021

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These measures are likely to affect grain shipments but are necessary, the CFA says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Canada’s ag sector is concerned about how new wildfire prevention measures placed on the country’s railroads could affect farmers.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced a series of rules on July 10 to protect railway infrastructure and prevent wildfires.

The measures, which will be in place until Oct. 31, are in response to the wildfire situation in Lytton, B.C. They include slower speeds when temperatures reach a certain level and prohibiting travel through areas where fire danger levels are “extreme.”

Canada’s railways are prepared to adhere to the new measures.

“Safety is foundational to everything we do and (Canadian Pacific) will fully comply with the new Transport Canada directive,” Andy Cummings, manager of media relations with CP, told in an email.

Because of the Oct. 31 date, these measures will be in effect for the start of the new crop year.

This could mean delays in grain shipments and strain on Canadian farmers.

“Disruptions in rail transportation are always a concern to the industry. As farmers don't get paid until their products reach port, this can put considerable strain on farmers' cash flows and their ability to pay bills,” Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), told “Also, if ships are forced to wait in port, they charge demurrage fees of thousands of dollars a day which will accrue back to the farmgate.”

While the CFA is concerned about these measures, the organization understands they are necessary, Robinson added.

Maintaining a reputation as a reliable international exporter is important for the industry.

Canada has already experienced multiple instances which have led to delays and further ones could be costly, Robinson said.

“Over the past 24 months we have seen various disruption to our transportation networks that have damaged that reputation, such as the railway strikes and blockades,” she said. “If Canada loses its reputation as a trusted exporter, this could impact future sales.”

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