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Road Weight Restrictions Relaxed for Grain Shipments

25 March 2014

CANADA - The Manitoba government is making a special one-time amendment to spring weight restriction policy on provincial roads that will enable famers to be nimble and react quickly to changes in climatic and market conditions, Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced this week.

"I want last year's bumper crop to have the best chance of getting to market so our grain farmers get paid," said Minister Kostyshyn.

"With this flexibility on spring road restrictions, grain can move to strategic locations while the railways ramp up service levels for farmers."

Manitoba's grain elevators are operating at 116 per cent of working capacity, up from 112 per cent a week ago, and on-farm storage at Manitoba farms is overwhelmed, Minister Kostyshyn said. Given the large crop, some farmers have had to store their grain in inappropriate, temporary storage. As spring approaches and the weather warms up, improperly stored grain is at risk of degradation and spoilage.

"The urgent nature of this exceptional situation is our first priority," said Minister Ashton. "Usually the province will wait for the frost to come out of the ground, but for this spring, we are relaxing restrictions for trucks hauling grain."

The Spring Road Restrictions program reduces the weight trucks can haul on specific routes during spring rains and thawing that weaken the road structure. Limits are based on a percentage of normal axle weights carried by vehicles with consideration for the road conditions. These road restrictions apply to all vehicles of 4,500 kilograms and heavier.

This season's policy change to Spring Road Restrictions means that all grain will be considered an essential commodity this spring and may be transported at restricted Level 1 weights (90 per cent of normal axle loading) on all Level 2 highways without a permit, as long as all posted weight restrictions on bridges are complied with.

Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation will monitor the impact on the roads, Minister Ashton said.

"KAP appreciates the flexibility this will give producers as they face the challenges of shipping their grain to market this spring," said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

"Farmers are facing a cash crunch because much of the 2013 crop remains on farms. Removing the spring road restrictions will help ease the backlog."

"Municipalities support a one-time exemption to spring weight restrictions, which will help to move grain and bolster economic activities in our communities," said Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

"We are pleased to see all the stakeholders working together to assist with grain movement in Manitoba."

Minister Ashton said the new measures were recommended by a provincial task force on grain transportation. The task force is co-chaired by ministers Kostyshyn and Ashton and also includes Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers and Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald.

The task force is working with key stakeholders including Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and the Western Grain Elevator Association to address the backlog issues with the national rail companies and the federal government.

Other steps the task force has made to address immediate concerns include launching a review of flood-prone areas to help farmers move at-risk grain and establishing a grain bin listing service that will assist producers in obtaining alternate storage locations for at-risk grain.

TheCropSite News Desk

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