The trend in producer car loading is coming back again,” says Don McLean, who farms near Manitou, Man. McLean is president of Boundary Loading Group Inc., a new producer-car loading facility at Darlingford, and a director with Boundary Trails Railroad, which runs the 26-mile short line from Morden to Manitou.
Numbers from the Canadian Wheat Board confirm McLean’s comment. The board says about 2,800 producers loaded 12,447 cars to move their wheat and barley to port in the 2008-09 crop year. The previous record was 12,124 in 1990-91. These numbers account for almost all the producer cars filled.
You can ship non-board grains by producer car. Gerald Onerheim, who farms at Frontier and is one of 50 farmer-owners of a busy producer car loading facility in the town, says they handle peas, lentils and mustard at their site. McLean says his group is in talks with Quaker to load oats in producer cars destined for U. S. processing plants. The key is that you need sales agreements and terminal authorization in place before you load the car. The CWB facilitates this for you.
“Producer cars” are hopper cars you load yourself at a siding or through a loading facility. The key distinction, regardless whether you load it yourself or through a facility, is that the grain is yours until the car unloads at its port destination. The CWB says shipping grain by producer cars can save farmers $800 to $1,200 per car in elevation fees. In McLean’s experience selling to Mission Terminal, he has also got better grades (higher protein and lower dockage) for wheat delivered in producer cars than the local elevators offered for the same sample.
Another benefit is that these loading sites are often closer to your farm than the nearest elevator. For McLean, the Darlingford site is five miles from his farm while the high-throughput elevator at Morden is 20 miles. CP has around 130 producer car loading sites across the three Prairie has 136 designates sites across the Prairies, down 40 after a recent round of closures. (If a site is closing near you, CN is open to offers from local groups, the company says.) The complete lists are available at the company websites: and Find the search box and enter “producer cars” to get this and other information.
STEPS TO LOAD A CAR
Here is the procedure to load grain for sale through the Canadian Wheat Board. This is an abbreviated version of the steps provided at the CWB website,
1. Figure out how much you want to load into cars. Each car holds 90, 94 or 101 tonnes, depending on the size or car, so you’ll want to work in increments of that size. Five cars, for example, would be 450 to 505 tonnes, or roughly 18,000 bushels of wheat.
Once you’ve figured out how many cars you want, download an application form from the website given above. At the site, click on “Application form” in the “Related information” box at the right. In that same box, you’ll find complete detailed instructions on how to load a producer car. You can also complete the forms by phone. Call 1-800-275-4292 and have your CWB producer ID number and personal identification number (PIN) handy. On your first producer car application each crop year, a Delivery of Wheat — Declaration of Eligibility form must be completed and faxed to the CWB before your rail cars are authorized.
2. Wait until you’ve heard from the Canadian Grain Commission. The CWB sends your application to the CGC, which will send you car tags, a bill of lading/settlement form, and a CGC authorization number. When you receive the letter, you are responsible for contacting the railways to confirm the car drop dates.
3. When your car is spotted, you usually have a day, maybe a day and a half, to load your cars, rain or shine or snow or cold. The CWB instructions recommend the following: Ensure the rail car is empty and clean inside, in good condition and the door hatches close properly. If there is a problem, contact the railway centre to have the rail car rejected and re-ordered. You can make a loss claim with the railway if a car arrives at port with less grain than you’ve loaded, but why risk it. When you’ve loaded the car, complete the I-90 tag. Indicate the CWB is the shipper (in care of your name). Staple the tag to the notice board on the loaded rail car.
4. Send your bill of lading to the rail company right after you’ve loaded the car and attached your tag. You only have a day or so to load and send in your bill of lading. If you’re late, you’ll be charged a demurrage fee that will eat up a lot of the cost savings in loading your own and CP want you to register as an e-Business subscriber so you can send your bill of lading through the website. The sites to register are and The CWB can electronically submit bills of lading to the railways for you for a fee of $25 per rail car.
5. Once the car unloads at port, the CWB will send you a settlement cheque and statement. If grade, dockage, moisture or protein are not what you expected, you can request a re-inspection within 15 days of unload. You will pay a small fee for this.
6. Other fees are deducted from your cheque, including freight rate, CWB administration fee ($90 per car) and CGC application fee ($20 per car).
As noted, these instructions are from the CWB website. For general instruction, you can also go to the Canadian Grain Commission website. Go to and click on “services and fees” under the “Information sources” heading in the left column. Then look for the “producer cars” link under the “topics” heading.
Sure, loading a producer car will save you grain handling fees, but here are some things to consider before you place an order.
You don’t get any of the blending or upgrade opportunities that an elevator may offer for your grain. That might not be so important for No. 1 high protein wheat, but it could be for lower grades.
As noted earlier, once the car is spotted, you have until the end of the following day to get the thing loaded. You don’t get a break for snow or cold. Rail companies will apply demurrage charges if you don’t fill the cars and contact the rail companies within that time period. Producer car loading facilities offer short-term railside storage so you can have the grain in place even before the cars arrive. These facilities, as part of the fee, will also order the car for you, check that the car is OK, and then fill it. Boundary Loading Group, for example, charges $300 per car for this service.
Don’t deliver grain with storage bugs. If the grain is infested, you are subject to fumigation costs and any additional railway charges (e. g. rail car demurrage). And you can’t fumigate your own car. “The railways strictly prohibit the use of all fumigants such as Phostoxin, in all rail cars loaded in Western Canada. If your rail car contains a fumigant, you may be subject to substantial financial penalties,” the CWB website says.
Ship the grade you said you’d ship. The CWB says farmers who ship the wrong grade may be assessed terminal storage and have their settlement payment