Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

WASHINGTON (Sept. 2, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the ongoing rail delays in the upper Midwest ‘staggering’ and ‘unacceptable’ and urged the federal government to press “the local railway monopoly” for better results, in a recent Fargo Forum Op-ed.

“If the federal government, under the management of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), doesn’t start producing some impressive results from the local railway monopoly ¾ BNSF Railway (BNSF) and Canadian Pacific (CP) ¾ the area’s farmers, farm families and the rural economies they fuel are going to be feeling a whole lot of hurt,” Johnson points out.

He notes that in North Dakota, where shipping by rail is the only option for many, four different grain elevators indicate that their oldest orders are from early March – that’s four months behind – and shuttle orders are up to 2,000 cars behind. In South Dakota, farmers will soon be forced to pile wheat on the ground because elevators can’t accept the increased liability. At one particular elevator, 3 million of the yearly 15 million bushels of grain will not move before this year’s harvest comes in.

“The ethanol industry, with up to 61 percent of ethanol being transported in that fashion, has also been frozen out of rail shipping. Earlier this year, ethanol prices dramatically increased due to lack of supply brought on by the shipping delays. Failure to bring ethanol to market will hurt consumers because of higher gasoline prices and will work against our efforts to offset imports of foreign oil. Ethanol will only fuel the nation if it can get to the nation’s consumers.

“For most of the issues farmers face, they have tools in their belt that can help them deal with an impending disaster. For many weather and market related issues, they have crop insurance. For soil erosion, they can vary their tilling practices and plant cover crops. For train issues, the only place to turn is the STB. Clearly, someone there needs to wake up at the switch and get things back in order because innocent farmers are paying the price.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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