The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) recently hosted a discussion surrounding rail reliability.

The institute notes the rail service is a critical link in Canada’s agri-food value chain and the brief work stoppage at one of Canada’s main railways highlighted one of the issues that can impact the reliability of that service.

Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, was one of the panel members.

He noted that we were getting poor rail service up until about 2017-2018, and then Bill C 49 - the Transportation Modernization Act - was passed.

"Then we had two years of pretty good service overall. It wasn't perfect, but it was acceptable," said Sobkowich.

"Some observers of the industry were thinking out loud or wondering out loud, whether we turned a corner on rail service of the past. Now maybe we're entering a new era of more balanced and better service, and the railways' ability to move the commodities, but we're also cautious about that thought because we knew the last two years we were in COVID."

Karen Proud, Fertilizer Canada president and CEO, was also on the panel.

She talked about the importance of reliable rail service for the fertilizer industry and the impact it can have.

"Our eastern provinces are highly, highly dependent on nitrogen fertilizers coming from Russia during this time of year in order to be ready for seeding seasons. So when the war started and the sanctions came into place, we were already scrambling to get supplies into this country to make sure farmers had what they need when the time came. Then we ended up with this CP strike or lockout - whatever they ended up calling it in the end - and that was also of extreme concern."