Record broken for Prairie producer carloads

Prairie wheat and barley growers have topped the single-season record for use of producer cars, loading 12,447 cars in the 2008-09 crop year, the Canadian Wheat Board reported Monday.

That beats the previous record of 12,124 cars set in 1990-91 and continues a “decade-long trend” in increasing producer car use, the CWB said.

Abandonment of Prairie branch rail lines and the “drastic consolidation” of primary elevators saw producer car use drop to about 3,000 cars by 1998-99, the CWB said, but the number has been climbing back since then.

About 2,800 farmers used the service in 2008-09, the board said, spurred by a “desire for cost savings and a growing number of shortline railways.”

“Farmers are looking for ways to reduce the expense of grain handling,” board chairman Larry Hill of Swift Current, Sask. said in a CWB release Monday. “Shipping by producer car means you don’t have to drive to an elevator or pay for its services.”

Producer cars are railway hopper cars that farmers can order to load themselves at a rail siding or a producer car-loading facility that’s closer to home than the nearest grain terminal. Shipping grain by producer cars can save a farmer $800 to $1,200 per car, depending on his or her location, the CWB said.

The board also credited a “large, high-quality crop and sizable CWB marketing program in 2008-09” as another incentive for farmers to use producer cars.

The board also credited much of the growth in producer-car use to collaboration between the CWB and producer-car networks such as West Central Road and Rail, Mission Terminal, Prairie Grain Producers and Great Northern Grain.

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