All the critical links in the grain transportation chain were represented at a meeting in Winnipeg last week, where they discussed how grain movement can be improved in both the short and long-term.

The meeting included representatives from the major grain companies, farm groups, ports, railways, the Canadian Grain Commission and the federal agriculture minister, says Bill Wilton, who represented the Prairie Oat Growers Association at the meeting.

"We basically discussed what we're going to do in Western Canada and what infrastructure will we have to put in place if we're going to move the crops that we're expected to produce in the future," he explains. "The comment was made that 2013 is not an anomaly. It's the way things are going to be in the future."

Wilton says Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz called on the railways to come up with a plan for moving last year's bumper crop to export positions.

"There was no finger pointing. It was just 'what do we do? how can we get ourselves out of this mess?' and basically the minister asked the railways to get back to him with plans on what they can do in order to move the backlog of grain," he says.

Wilton notes the meeting helped the involved parties understand the urgency involved in improving grain movement.

"In 90 days producers are going to the field again, and 100 days after that they're going to have more grain that they're going to need to ship and sell," he says. "Everybody's aware of the problem and now it's just a matter of the stakeholders figuring out a way to get through the problem."

While in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Ritz announced the federal government will be covering half the cost of a $3 million five-year project, working together with industry partners on improving efficiencies in the Canadian agricultural supply chain.