Agriculture rail loading facility being studied: Claybelt farmers examine merits of loading facility to expand market reach.

Author:Ross, Ian

Farmers in northeastern Ontario are looking at the prospect of using rail to move agricultural products more efficiently to domestic and international markets.

A consultant is carrying out a feasibility study for the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) toward developing a plan for a rail siding facility to better serve the farming belt between Nipissing and Cochrane. The general idea is to divert more agricultural products off the highway and onto rail.

"If we're able to do a rail facility, we can get different commodities going to different markets at a cost comparable or effective way," said NOFIA administrator Stephanie Vanthof.

"It will get, ideally, more trucks off the road."

Partners in the study are Koch Farms & Agri-Sales, Grant Farms, Co-op Regional, and the Township of Armstrong.

Vanthof said some Claybelt producers and elevator companies are at capacity in moving commodities to market by truck. They're also cognizant of societal concerns about the environmental impacts of long-haul trucking.

"We're trying to be proactive on that."

The potential for a rail loading facility would certainly provide a better all-weather solution over road transport and would also circumvent the problem of major accidents frequently stranding truckers on the highway, which logistically impacts shipments reaching the destination on time.

Vanthof explained there are further difficulties in accessing the U.S. market with truck load restrictions at the border.

"That (facility) will alleviate some that if we can have rail cars going into the U.S. But even to eastern markets--to go through...

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