Farmers were well represented in Ottawa when the Alberta Wheat Commission made a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on Tuesday.

Kevin Auch, Chair of the Commission, was one of the presenters, and they urged the quick passage of Bill C-49, also known as the Transportation Modernization Act. Auch says, they had some great feedback.

"We wanted the Government to understand how important this is to us, because we export a very large percentage of our wheat into the world. From the prairies here, the vast majority goes out by rail, so we require a good rail system in order to get our wheat, and the other crops we grow, to these markets."

Bill C-30 was a temporary piece of legislation put in place to fix some of the transportation issues seen in the 2013-2014 crop year.

"That was when we had a very large crop, and there was one of the railways that went through a rationalization of their equipment that year. They dropped a bunch of their equipment, and basically, we had a huge backlog of grain that cost our industry billions of dollars in lost revenue just because we couldn't get our crops off our farms and to our export markets through the rails."

Bill C-30 expired this summer, and Bill C-49 will be a new legislation to provide long term solutions for the transportation industry.

Auch says the new piece of legislation will give more power to grain shippers in the midst of two monopoly rail companies. The Commission recommended amendments that would improve the effectiveness of long haul interswitching as a tool to improve rail competition.

"Whenever you have a monopoly, there's no competition. And when there's no competition, then there's a tendency for the price to rise, so the price of our freight would rise. What this legislation does is counteract the monopoly powers and gives a little bit more power to the shippers, and that's what this interswitching did."

Auch says, they are hopeful they will see meaningful change to the legislation after their presentation.


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