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Manitoba ministers to monitor measures aimed at easing grain bottleneck

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government has tasked four cabinet ministers to monitor federal measures aimed at easing a rail transportation bottleneck that has left piles of grain sitting in bins across the Prairies. The province says the ministers are to make sure the province's farmers get access to rail cars as they become available. The four are also to make sure farmers in flood-prone areas get their grain moved and to help others in finding alternate storage for grain that might be at risk.

Banks urged to be flexible with farmers facing cash crunch due to grain backlog

REGINA - Saskatchewan's agriculture minister wants financial institutions to cut farmers some slack because of a grain transportation backlog. Lyle Stewart says he has written to all banks in the province urging them to be flexible with farmers facing a cash crunch because their grain isn't getting to market.

Slow U.S. winter thaw needed to avoid more wheat damage: USDA

By Colin Packham CANBERRA (Reuters) - A gradual end to the U.S. big freeze is needed to prevent further damage to the country's wheat crop, the chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Tuesday. U.S. wheat futures have firmed in recent weeks amid concerns over potential curbs to yields as a result of cold weather across the U.S. plains. "The persistence of winter has been a problem...," said the USDA's Joseph Glauber at a commodities conference in the Australian capital Canberra.

Saskatchewan legislature passes motion for Ottawa to get grain moving

REGINA - Saskatchewan lawmakers have passed a motion to support the federal government if it brings in emergency legislation to deal with the grain transportation backlog that has been hurting farmers. Premier Brad Wall introduced the motion on the first day of the spring sitting at the Saskatchewan legislature. "We're definitively saying the federal government should look at all of its legislative options," Wall said Monday in Regina.

Grain backlog prompts Ottawa to keep closer tabs on rail companies: Ritz

WINNIPEG - A transportation bottleneck that has left a bumper crop of grain still sitting in some fields is prompting Ottawa to keep closer tabs on rail companies. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Monday he is acting on the advice from a crop logistics working group to change grain monitoring so rail companies will have to report monthly on their performance. Right now, companies report every three months. Railways know they can do better and increased transparency will help pinpoint problems as they arise, he suggested.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says rail backlog of grain increasingly serious

REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says a rail backlog that has left a bumper crop of grain still sitting in some fields is increasingly serious. Last year was a record harvest — up about 20 million tonnes — and Wall acknowledges that makes it more difficult to move the crop in a timely way. But he says there's reason for more concern every day. "Part of the reason why this is frustrating for all the stakeholders (is that) it's very difficult for us to focus in on the problem and then just come up with a plan to fix the problem," Wall said Wednesday at the legislature.

Hotter longer, Australian heat wave pressuring commodities

By Matt Siegel and Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia can expect even longer and hotter heat waves than the one now scorching wide swathes of the country, a climate research group said on Thursday, raising questions about its long-term position as an agricultural powerhouse. A blistering heat wave has settled over Australia's south and southeast for nearly a week, with soaring temperatures causing worry after players and fans alike collapsed at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament in Melbourne.

Report: US growers planted fewer winter wheat acres, Kansas acreage seeded down

WICHITA, Kan. - The first acreage estimate of the growing season shows U.S. farmers planted fewer acres of winter wheat for harvest this year, according to a report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service released Friday. The agency reported that the 41.9 million planted acres are down 2 per cent overall from last year. Seeding began in August for the 2014 winter wheat crop, which is harvested in late spring and early summer across the nation.

Wheat board appeal moves ahead despite ruling that struck down several claims

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. - The group Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board says it is moving ahead with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the federal government despite a court ruling in the fall. The lawsuit is over legislation that removed the wheat board's marketing monopoly on western wheat and barley sales. Board supporters are seeking $17 billion in damages. In November, a Federal Court justice struck down parts of the lawsuit that alleged expropriation and interference with economic relations.

QuickList: Annual inflation rate in November for selected Canadian cities

OTTAWA - Canada's national annual inflation rate was 0.9 per cent in November, Statistics Canada says. The agency also released rates for major cities, but cautioned that figures may fluctuate widely because they are based on small statistical samples (Previous month in brackets): — St. John's, N.L., 2.2 (1.5) — Charlottetown-Summerside, 2.6 (2.1) — Halifax, 1.0 (0.8) — Saint John, N.B., 1.1 (0.7) — Quebec, 0.5 (0.3) — Montreal, 0.7 (0.4) — Ottawa, 0.9 (0.8) — Toronto, 1.3 (1.1) — Thunder Bay, Ont., 1.1 (0.8)
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