South Dakota Farmers Union supports surface transportation announcement

Farm Forum

HURON, S.D. — A recent Surface Transportation Board directive to Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway Company and BNSF Railway Company will help ship South Dakota 2013 commodities to market, in time for 2014 harvest said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

“Currently there is such a backlog of grain waiting to be shipped by rail that if we don’t push these railways to provide service to South Dakota grain elevators we won’t have room for the upcoming harvest,” Sombke said.

The directive asks the CP and BNSF Railway Company to provide a timely resolution of their backlogs of grain car orders by June 27 and provide weekly status reports pertaining to grain car service until the situation is resolved.

A directive such as this is necessary due to government deregulation of railways and several other factors; such as competition and winter weather conditions Sombke explained.

“Deregulation left railways without any laws that will keep rail companies moving product out of South Dakota,” Sombke said. “Currently we are competing with the North Dakota oil fields for cars to ship South Dakota grain and other commodities to markets.”

The new status reports will serve to monitor the railways to ensure they are moving product on a timely schedule. “Until requiring these reports they could do whatever they wanted any time they wanted with any commodity they wanted,” Sombke said. “For most part, shipping priority went to the highest bidder; in this case, the oil industry.”

This is the STB’s second order in response to the serious rail transportation issues in the upper Midwest and Great Plains. The first order issued in mid-April to CP and BNSF concerned getting necessary fertilizer to farmers in advance of spring planting. The railroads responded and prioritized the shipment of fertilizer to meet the enhanced scrutiny from STB. Unfortunately, that did not address all of the rail shipping issues.

Since April Sombke and other members of South Dakota Farmers Union have traveled to D.C. to testify during Surface Transportation Board hearings to advocate for timely rail service of South Dakota’s agriculture commodities.