Wheat School — Getting Grain to Market With Producer Cars

Shipping your own railcar can have numerous benefits, not the least of which is selling grain at a higher price than local elevators are willing to offer. At the same time there’s also a fair amount of risk in counting on producer cars to market grain — just ask one of the farmers who are waiting on the thousands of producer car orders that are currently outstanding.


Data from Canadian Grain Commission (click graph to enlarge)

Interest in shipping producer cars jumped last crop year, as farmers sought an alternative to get around the grain transportation backlog. The Canadian Grain Commission processed over 21,000 applications and allocated 15,452 producer cars during the 2013-14 crop year (see chart.) The vast majority of cars that were spotted were loaded with wheat.

As part of this Wheat School episode, we hear from Travis Long, the general manager of Boundary Trail Railway Company — a farmer-owned short-line based in Manitou, Manitoba.

He says farmers in south-central Manitoba have benefited from having another option for getting grain to buyers in the U.S.

“In the last year our customers have been earning anywhere from $0.20 to over $1 a bushel better pricing than what they would be getting at the local elevator,” explains Long. “There are also lots of benefits that aren’t cash in pocket, but in terms of time and delivery distance.”

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Filmed at a producer car loading site during winter wheat harvest this fall, Long described BTRC’s railcar ordering process and the markets where this grain is destined, as well as opportunities they’re seeing after the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk: