How railway blockades are affecting Manitoba farmers

WINNIPEG — Pipeline protests across the country have forced CN Rail to shut down operations in eastern Canada.

The rail disruption is having an impact across the country and taking a toll on several industries — including farming.

Charles Fossay, a grain farmer near Starbuck, Man. says if the disruption keeps up, it could cause a lot of issues.

“I was at the elevator today talking to the manager, and the grain their planning to ship out next week, it won’t move now until about mid-March,” said Fossay.

Pipeline protests began last week as a show of support for the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

Protests have been happening across the country and have been blocking rail lines.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the Wet’suwet’en protests, arrests

Fossay says the rail line disruption has already caused a backup in the industry and is taking a toll on farmers.

“It’s going to slow down our shipments, it’s going to affect our cash flow, and it’s also going to impact the purchase of some of our inputs because a lot of fertilizer is shipped into Canada from overseas,” said Fossay.

Fossay is part of the Keystone Agricultural Producers, a group that advocates for farmers like Fossay across Manitoba.

The group’s president is concerned about the blockades.

“This is a highly efficient system that hauls the grain, and if it has problems the terminals fill up and then we are unable to haul our grain so without movement of grain we don’t have cash payments and if we don’t have cash payments we cannot pay our bills,” said Bill Campbell, the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

Fossay worries when he’s ready to haul out his grain in March, he could be stuck waiting weeks or months to do it.

“I gotta wait until they’ve loaded cars, ship them out and they’ve made space for me to start delivering my grain, and it’s not just me it’s going to be probably a hundred or more farmers in this area all wanting to deliver grain at the same time,” Fossay said.

It’s yet another roadblock in what he says has been a tough season for farmers.

“We have some good years in agriculture, and then we have some bad years, and this is one of the bad years that everyone is going to remember for a while,” he said.

Both Fossay and Campbell say theissues caused by the blockades are similar to what the industry dealt with during CN labour negotiations in 2019.

Both farmers say this looks bad on the Canadian grain farming industry because now they aren’t able to provide producers from across the world with the Canadian grains they rely on and trust.