Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear. It's greatly appreciated. We are very happy to be here after requesting to be here.
The Canadian National Millers Association is Canada's national not-for-profit industry association representing the cereal grain milling industry. Our member companies operate milling establishments across Canada, and a number of them operate establishments in the United States or have affiliated companies with milling facilities in the U.S.
By virtue of where the Canadian milling industry capacity is situated and the regional markets served, the Canadian industry can quite correctly be described as a participant in a North American industry. It is a North American market for this industry, and the industry is integrated much like the rail transportation networks are throughout North America.
We are, however, an independent Canadian not-for-profit organization. We do not directly represent members of the U.S. milling industry except for those who are members in good standing of the CNMA by virtue of their operating facilities in Canada.
In light of the few minutes that are available for everyone to speak, I'd like to start by advising the committee at the outset that the CNMA supports the recommendations that are set out in the amendments to the bill as submitted and presented by the Western Grain Elevator Association. Members of the WGEA are the predominant link between grain producers and our member grain processors and others who are processors in Canada. This is the case for the majority of wheat and oats milled in western Canada.
I would like to touch upon a number of points as context for the committee's consideration of all the submissions you've heard. They are the following.
Our members are primary processors of wheat, oats, rye, and other cereal grains. By “primary processors”, we mean the step in the supply chain at which grain is transformed from a commodity that generally is not consumed to commodities that are consumed and are ingredients in food products and other products at the consumer level.
Top of mind for most people who think of foods that contain such ingredients are bread, other bakery products, pasta, breakfast cereals, and cookies, but I'd like to emphasize that you'll find wheat flour and other products of grain milling in products that are in every aisle of the grocery store, including pet foods, which contain products of grain milling. There are many products that contain or are derived from milled grain products. Those milled grain products are derived from grains across Canada, but predominantly the grains that are produced in western Canada.
There are also very few food service chains or restaurants, if any, whose menus are not largely based on foods based on cereal grains and manufactured from the products of grain milling. During the duration of these hearings, I was reflecting on this. I think Canadians will have consumed approximately 200 million meals containing bakery products, pasta, breakfast cereals, and snack foods, which in turn contain other products of grain milling.
These businesses, from the very largest to the very smallest, operate on a just-in-time delivery basis. The major manufacturing companies or the further processors of milled grain products—such as bakeries for frozen bakery products, or pasta, but principally those further processing manufacturing industries—have only a few days of ingredients in stock, and not just wheat flour and other milled grain products, but all grain products. In that sense, the supply chain beyond the milling industry operates on a just-in-time delivery basis, just like the automotive industry.
The CNMA's interest in rail transportation policy in Bill C-49 is that the cereal grain milling industry is heavily reliant on rail transportation, not only for inbound unprocessed grains but for outbound processed products. Two-thirds of Canada's wheat milling capacity is located off the Prairies, outside of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and is situated in B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia primarily. These mills require rail service to receive approximately three million tonnes of wheat and oats annually. This represents a very predictable demand for rail transportation: in my estimate, 34,000 cars annually for inbound grain, and perhaps another 6,000 to 10,000 cars for the movement forward of milled grain products and by-products.
This demand doesn't fluctuate significantly by crop year, is not variant on the size of the Canadian crop for any commodity. Rather, it can be easily forecast a year in advance because it's based on a domestic and a nearby export market, the United States of America.
Having noted some of the ridings held by committee members, it might interest you to know that during the dramatic shortfall in service in the 2013-14 crop year, there were mills in Mississauga, Montreal, and Halifax that actually ran out of wheat, in some cases more than once. That meant that major bakeries were within two to three days of running out of flour, and major retail grocery establishments probably within four to five days of running out of bread on shelves.
In hindsight—and that is now a long time ago and we're not here to whine about what happened back then—we came very close to having a serious interruption in our grains-based food supply. How would we have explained that to Canadians who had gone to the store and found no bread, or to fast-food restaurants which would have had nothing to put their ingredients on in those menu servings?
Other than the extended switching rights, the provisions of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act did not recognize or assist the rail service requirements of Canada's milling industry. The same can be said for U.S. establishments. In fact, that intervention provided an impediment to service to our industry. As we see it, there are no provisions of the CTA that presently speak to the very predictable and forecastable service needs of the Canadian milling industry, and in most respects the same can be said about the amendments proposed by Bill C-49. The act, as it exists and even as amended, doesn't really speak directly to or recognize the needs of domestic processors.
Those processors really do not have the capacity to receive and unload grain in the way that grain elevators have on the way to export markets. Almost all mill locations are urban. They're in multi-mix environments, in some cases surrounded by residential development, commercial development, and they are equipped to handle only a few cars at a time. The largest capacity of a mill that I'm aware of, without using a transfer elevator nearby, is about 15 cars at a time.
In regard to Bill C-49, it really remains important that under the amended act the definition of “shipper”, as I understand the proposed amendments, will remain, “a person who sends or receives goods by means of a carrier or intends to do so.” That's an extremely important aspect of the legislation as it exists today, and that does ensure that processors, including millers, have access to the benefits of the same provisions of the act.
The key point I want to make is that grain rail service is not only about moving grain to port for onward movement to export markets. It's about moving grain to mills in Canada and the United States, meeting the needs of Canadian and U.S. consumers. The Transport Canada question-and-answer document that was circulated about 10 days ago speaks of global markets. I want to emphasize that North America, Canada and the U.S. combined, is a global market of 400 million people. From our investigation, the recommendations of the WGEA and those carefully considered points of the crop logistics working group will go a long way to meeting the substantial improvement that is described by the WGEA in these amendments. We are supportive of those recommendations.
I must emphasize, however, neither their submission, nor any other that I've read to date, speak to the importance of rail service to cereal grain milling establishments. There are actually many, and the Canadian population relies upon the timely operation of those facilities and the delivery of foods from those facilities.
I've provided some very brief correspondence to the Honourable Marc Garneau, to the clerk, which I gather will be subsequently distributed once it is translated.
Thank you for your attention.