Leroy's Bad Dream - Tombstones

December 29, 1998
By: Edwin Wallace, Brendaren Farms

I heard or read the other day - from another agriculture expert already! - that there was a trend developing among Saskatchewan grain farmers; perhaps all prairie grain producers - not to grow some of the less valuable wheats because the killing of the Crow, resulted in too high a freight cost!

I know what the expert meant by "less valuable" wheat varieties; CPS for instance. But I and my farmer acquaintances could be forgiven for asking which wheats aren't less valuable these days!

That the freight rates are way out of line with the value of our crops, remains a secret only to those who are totally befuddled by the words of Ralph Goodale and the Liberals, when they tell us that doing away with the crow "will be good for us in the long run."

In the Swift Current district, there are now five inland terminals constructed or well on their way; three in the city and two at Gull Lake. In addition there is another planned or perhaps started a few miles East of Swift Current. And, while there has been some move to grow other than WHEAT in this general area, the predominance is still WHEAT and durum. So, the question arises: If the expert is right, why will we continue to grow WHEAT to feed these giant elevators? They are designed for large capacity - that's WHEAT; for a hundred or more hopper cars at a time - that's for WHEAT; located on railway tracks - with a future - that lead to ports East and West - that's for WHEAT!.

Does that mean that there will be "an arrangement" between grain companies and the railways for future delivery of WHEAT which will make the proposition attractive to wheat farmers? Some how that seems a little farfetched. Let's look at the Saskatchewan Wheat Corporation for example. Tough times recently for what USED TO BE A COOPERATIVE; TSE shares are below $10; long counted on loyalty from farmers is gone - for the most part; employees are very uncertain of their futures and are therefore very unhappy. In short, the Saskatchewan Wheat Corporation, owner of one of the Swift Current terminals, and a share holder in another, is just about out of economic wiggle room. The closure and planned closure of all those little elevators put them on the hook to build a whole bunch of the big terminals - you know, " to be a player"! That's going to cost a lot of money. And, if the expert is right, every other grain corporation will be going after the same local bushels that are just not there! Any freight benefits they can negotiate as corporate buddies of CN and CP will be needed to keep those towering prairie tombstones at or near a profit.

The Saskatchewan Wheat Corporation's president, Leroy Larson, intimated many months ago that he saw some dangers in building the terminals. His nightmare is about to arrive.

Time to wake up Leroy! And before you scratch yourself - or yawn, cancel that small elevator closure notice! It won't solve the freight rate problem but it will save your corporation a bunch of money and keep a lot more people happier.

I'm Edwin

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