Farm group starts grain shipping conversation

Grain Growers of Canada has developed a podcast and hotline in effort to answer questions about grain handling sector

An organization that bills itself as the national voice of Canadian grain farmers is launching a new campaign aimed at answering important questions about the country’s grain handling and transportation system.

Grain Growers of Canada announced last week that it plans to launch a new podcast and hotline that delves into grain-shipping issues and answers important questions about how the system works and how to improve it.

GGC executive director Erin Gowriluk said the purpose of the hotline and podcast is to kickstart a dialogue about grain, educate stakeholders about how the system works, address farmer concerns and promote conversations that could lead to policy improvements and operational changes.

“I think we know about some of the more obvious issues (affecting grain shipments) but there are also issues that we need to look at in a more fulsome way,” Gowriluk said.

“We really want this to be a conversation between Canadian farmers and their transportation partners.”

In a recent interview with The Western Producer, Gowriluk said the idea to launch a new hotline and podcast stemmed from a series of conversations with industry colleagues about the various challenges that are faced by grain shippers, including western Canadian grain farmers.

Farmers and grain shippers depend on efficient rail and port movements to ensure timely deliveries of grain to overseas buyers. Significant delays or bottlenecks in the system can result in costly contract penalties to exporters, and ultimately, to the farmers who supply grain to exporters.

The GGC podcast, called Canada’s Trains and Moving Grains, was scheduled to launch the week of July 19–26.

The podcast will include a different conversation each week with a prominent player in the grain handling and transportation system.

The first episode will feature Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp., which runs the federal grain monitoring program.

Quorum monitors a wide range of grain transportation metrics and keeps weekly monthly and annual data on grain movement velocities, terminal stocks, producer deliveries and export shipments, among other things.

The podcast’s second scheduled guest will be Joan Hardy, vice-president of sales and marketing for grain and fertilizer with Canadian Pacific Railway.

Other planned guests include Peter Xotta, vice-president of planning and operations with the Port of Vancouver.

Weekly episodes are available on many podcast-hosting app and websites.

As well, listeners can log in to a producer hotline at where they can ask questions.

Farmers are also encouraged to text their feedback to 416-649-6488 or record a voice message toll-free at 888-870-3672.

“This podcast is an opportunity for us to delve deeper into the complex system and hear from the voices that are often missing in the conversation around grain shipment in Canada – those of farmers,” said Gowriluk.

“We just want to hear from farmers,” she added.

“What problems have you encountered with our current grain shipping and handling system in Canada? What frustrations do you have around grain movement, or outstanding questions about how it works?”

With a widespread drought affecting a large and growing part of Western Canada’s grain producing area, the amount of grain available for shipping in the 2021-22 crop year is expected to be much smaller than usual.

Growers in some areas will have little if any new-crop grain to sell this fall, due to low yields.

“We know the situation out West is quite dire,” Gowriluk said.

“I think by the end of next week, farmers will have a better handle on what they’re facing.”

But certainly, yield expectations will be well below normal, she said.