Farmers call for quick resolution to Seaway workers’ strike


submitted by OFA

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is joining Grain Farmers of Ontario, Fertilizer Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in urging the federal government to ensure that critical shipments of grains, oilseeds, fertilizer, and other products and resources like road salt continue to flow through the St. Lawrence Seaway in light of the ongoing strike by Seaway workers.

As winter approaches and fall harvest is in full swing, time is of the essence to keep grain shipments moving before the Seaway closes for the winter. Provincial grain storages are filling up quickly, with some having already reached capacity – a situation that will rapidly become worse if the strike isn’t resolved quickly.

“This is an absolutely crucial time for the grain harvest in Ontario and the closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway could not come at a worse time for farmers and the Canadian food supply chain,” says farmer and OFA director Steve Brackenridge, who is also owner-operator of a grain elevator near Peterborough already dealing with major grain shipment backlogs. “We can’t overstate the urgency of this situation as the locks in the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence River will close in late December/early January due to annual freeze and will remain closed until late March.”

Late last week, OFA, the Ontario Agri-Business Association and Grain Farmers of Ontario called on Canadian Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and the government of Canada to take every approach available to ensure that any potential labour disruption does not further damage the Ontario agricultural industry and the wider Canadian economy.  

“We seek the support of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Transport Canada, the Canada Industrial Relations Board, Unifor and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Company to explore all opportunities to bring a swift end to this strike,” adds OFA President Peggy Brekveld. “The Seaway is part of Canada’s critical supply chain infrastructure and an essential artery for the export of grain shipments the world depends on, as well as the arrival of vitally important fertilizer and road salt shipments for Canadians.”

The Seaway supports more than 66,000 Canadian jobs and is responsible for $34 million in economic activity a day, as well as the flow of more than six million tonnes of grain annually. In an average month, between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of grain travel through the Seaway to Canada, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and more.

The Canadian fertilizer industry also relies on the St. Lawrence Seaway for the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash products, three nutrients that play a fundamental role in plant growth, crop yields and food security. Approximately three quarters of the fertilizer used by Ontario farmers each spring are imported via the Seaway during the fall shipping season.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is the largest general farm organization in Ontario, representing 38,000 farm families across the Province and serving as the leading advocate and strongest voice of Ontario’s farmers. As a dynamic farmer-led organization based in Guelph, the OFA represents and champions the interests of Ontario farmers through government relations, farm policy recommendations, research, lobby efforts, community representation, media relations and more.



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