Thanks very much for the opportunity.
First, I will provide a little background on ITAC, the Inland Terminal Association of Canada. There was a time when the grain handling system of western Canada was dominated by farmer-owned cooperatives. Those days are long past but there are a number of farmer-owned grain facilities and most of them are under the banner of ITAC. Seven Saskatchewan members and three Alberta members make up ITAC, and they have to be at least 50% farmer owned.
I'll run through the members, which will help explain the supply chain and how everything works.
Starting with the Alberta members, there's Westlock Terminals, which is organized as a new generation co-op. It's north of Edmonton in the town of Westlock. There's Providence Grain Solutions, also in Alberta, with a central office in Fort Saskatchewan, a high throughput facility in Gaudin, near Fort Saskatchewan, and other grain facilities at Viking and Crossfield. They've also purchased a facility at Marengo, Saskatchewan. There's Lethbridge Inland Terminal, the first newly built, wholly farmer-owned grain facility in Alberta.
Turning now to the Saskatchewan members, there's Weyburn Inland Terminal, which is one of the largest facilities on the Prairies. They also have some other operations, including a pelleting operation and a majority interest in an ethanol plant. Great Sandhills Terminal is at Leader, Saskatchewan. They also have an old wooden elevator in the town of Leader. Their concrete terminal is outside the town of Leader. They're also a majority owner in Great Sandhills Railway, which runs from Swift Current to Burstall.
Gardiner Dam Terminal is located near Strongfield, Saskatchewan. Viterra is a partner in that operation. Prairie West Terminal is a facility in the Plenty/Dodsland area; they have a concrete terminal there. They also have old wooden facilities in Dodsland and Plenty which they use for malting barley storage. They own some of the former Pioneer grain facilities in Kindersley and Luseland.
North West Terminal at Unity, Saskatchewan, is a large terminal with cleaning and drying services. There's also a fairly new ethanol plant, North West Bio-Energy, which is right on site. South West Terminal, near where I farm in southwestern Saskatchewan, is located officially at Antelope, which is just a spot on the rail line. It's near Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. They have other crop input facilities at Hazenmore and Cabri. Cargill is a partner in South West Terminal. CMI Terminal is a terminal and crop supply business in the Naicam/Spalding area of Saskatchewan. Viterra is a partner.
Alliance Grain Terminal is a 102,000 tonne export terminal in Vancouver. It's owned by six grain operations, including a number of the ITAC group: Weyburn Inland Terminal, North West Terminal, Prairie West Terminal, and Great Sandhills Terminal. Two other grain companies are also involved in that export terminal at Vancouver. They are Paterson Grain and Parrish and Heimbecker. Not all the ITAC members have direct access to a port facility but these four ITAC members do have a direct stake in Alliance Grain Terminal.
Another player that should be mentioned is GNP Grain Source Group. It's a consortium of seven farmer-owned independent grain shippers, including six ITAC members: North West Terminal, Prairie West Terminal, Great Sandhills Terminal, Providence Grain Solutions, Lethbridge Inland Terminal, and Westlock Terminals. GNP Consulting is a subsidiary of GNP Grain Source Group, and it manages rail logistics and transportation issues for all those members.
There's a case where a number of farmer-owned facilities have got together to purchase the consulting services of an expert in the logistics chain.
With respect to some of the issues that have legislative ramifications, changes to the Canada Grain Act, of course, are speeding through Parliament. ITAC welcomes the removal of mandatory inward inspection. We believe that's a good move in the changes to the Canada Grain Act.
With respect to mandatory inspection, in many cases, when grain goes from a terminal on the Prairies to a port facility, often reinspection doesn't make any sense, particularly if that grain is going to the same owner. If the grain is going from North West Terminal to Alliance Grain, for instance, it's all under the same ownership. If they want to have that grain reinspected, they can do that and then pay for that service, but removing the mandatory need to, we believe, was a good move.
In ITAC's opinion, outward inspection should not be mandatory either. That's a change we would like to have seen.
In a number of cases the overseas customer buying grain doesn't want the services or the grading of the Canadian Grain Commission. They want another service they rely on, for instance, SGS. Therefore, we believe making outward inspection by the Canadian Grain Commission mandatory is not serving the system well.
Within the changes to the Canada Grain Act, we believe the activities for the public good have not been extended far enough. In other words, things such as the Canadian Grain Commission's grain research lab, their policy functions, and their food safety role are for the public good. In our opinion, those should be funded by taxpayer dollars and not by farmers' dollars. Since those are part of the system that has to be paid for largely by the industry, that means user fees, which will be increasing dramatically on August 1, are much higher than they need to be. Even though those are paid by grain shippers, they are ultimately paid by farmers. We believe the public good aspects of the Canadian Grain Commission should be expanded. We hope the Canada Grain Act will be reopened at some point in the near future for continued modernization.
Before letting Terry have his turn and then opening it up for questions, rail service legislation is the other main point I want to talk about.
This has been eagerly awaited not only by ITAC but by the entire grain industry and the entire shipper community, whether for coal or potash or any of the other major commodities that go by rail. The belief among all the shippers is that service level agreements are necessary to level the playing field.
Most of the grain elevators, especially with ITAC, may have only one terminal on either CN or CP rail. Rarely do they have a choice between the two, and rarely do they have another mode of transportation that's going to make sense to get grain to an export position. Therefore, they are not in a very strong bargaining position with the railways, and the current system is very one-sided.
The railway will say that they're going to drop 100 cars on Monday and that they need to be filled within the eight-hour day, or that they want to take those cars away on Tuesday, so you scramble to get your people in place to make sure you're ready to load those 100 cars. But then the railway doesn't drop them off on Tuesday; it doesn't happen until Wednesday. There are really only 50 cars that come, and three of them leak. If you don't fulfill your role as a grain shipper, you don't get your incentive rate. However, if the railway doesn't do what it says it's going to do, there are no ramifications the other way.
The legislation, as we understand it, would make it mandatory for the railways to sit down and negotiate service level agreements, commercial agreements with ramifications if you don't perform. That's what ITAC members want and what the entire industry says it wants. It wants predictable performance and balanced accountability.
The other point I will quickly make is that good logistics are very important. Currently the federal grain monitor, which is Quorum Corporation, compiles statistics. However, they tend to be well after the fact. There's a need for current, ongoing information to monitor the entire logistics chain to see where problems are developing. Information is necessary to make logistics work, but it needs to be current, and it needs to be widely available. There is worry that with changes to the Canadian Grain Commission and the changes that have occurred to the Canadian Wheat Board, there are likely to be more information gaps in the future.
In closing, the logistics system has worked well this fall. There were worries that changes to the Canadian Wheat Board could cause a number of bottlenecks. It has actually been a very good fall for grain movement. There were a number of factors involved in that, but we know there will always be instances where we run into difficulties and things do not work as well. We want to have a system in place that can get us through those rough spots, and the most important point is balanced accountability between shippers and the railways.
Thanks very much for this opportunity. I look forward to answering questions later.