Marketing freedom and improved rail services helping ag industry

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March 19, 2015 8:15 AM

Being located in the heart of the prairies, Saskatchewan depends on a large agriculture industry and relies heavily on rail services to transport crops to market.

Because of this, the provincial government says it continues to seek ways to make these services more efficient, working closely with both railways and producers to find the best practices for everyone involved.

“Our farmers depend on predictable, efficient and timely rail service to serve their international customers,” said Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture and MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster. “Our government’s Bill 30 last spring has put into the law clear and achievable solutions to ensure Canadian grains and other commodities get to market in a predictable timely way.”

Bill 30 allowed the government to set volume requirements to make sure certain grain volumes are moved and gave the continued flexibility to watch and adjust volumes as needed. Ritz said they continue to do that through the rest of the month as the minimum volume requirements have been extended to March 28.

He also spoke about how marketing freedom has been the cornerstone of Saskatchewan’s grain modernization policy, saying for the first time in almost 70 years western wheat and barley producers now have the right to market their crops.

“Marketing freedom is a fundamental concept of any market-driven economy. That’s why our provincial and national chambers stood behind the government’s decision to extend this basic business right to western Canadian grain farmers.”

Ritz said marketing freedom is supported by most farm groups and three western provinces that grow 80 per cent of the country’s wheat and over 90 per cent of the barley. Now in its third year, he said it’s helping growers make decisions at “the speed of business” in today’s fast-paced environment.

Now that the Canadian Wheat Board no longer holds a monopoly, Canadian wheat is finding new customers in South America, Asia and Africa, according to Ritz.

“In each of these regions, sales of Canadian wheat in 2013-14 surpassed the five-year average,” he said. “Deliveries to the U.S. have also reached record highs. Last year, Canadian agriculture and food exports hit a record once again with wheat alone up almost 20 per cent.”

According to Ritz, investors are looking more to agriculture as a sector for long-term growth potential and the government will continue to work with chambers of commerce across Canada to ensure the economy stays on a positive track.

“We’ll continue to be flexible and pragmatic in working to keep our economy strong, keep taxes low and focus on the drivers of growth and job creation, innovation, investment, education and skills,” said Ritz.

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