Concerns Growing Over Rail Back-up

Updated: 08/28/2014 5:51 PM
Created: 08/28/2014 5:50 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 News) -- Harvest time is still several weeks away, but already one concern is growing.

And now, Minnesota's governor has gotten involved.

"As we get into fall we're going to need the rail to move grain," said Tim Chicos at Northern Country Co-op in Lansing. "What I've been hearing is the rail has been behind."

“It is a serious issue, and it's putting farmers at a disadvantage,” added Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz.

Governor Mark Dayton says he wants the state's major railroads to provide more information about why they can't move more agricultural products from state farms and grain elevators to markets. He's outlined his concerns in a letter to the Surface Transportation Board.

"We set down a certain day we want these rail cars and they deliver. If they don't have the rail cars, they don't make the delivery," Chicos said.

And then the problem starts to snowball.

"Puts us in a bind for receiving the grain from the farmer, and then either we have to stockpile it more to put on the ground just so the farmer gets done because if he doesn't get done, then we get into the wintertime" Chicos said.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says a new study shows the state's grain farmers lost $109 million from March to May, and shipping problems played a big part in the loss.

"You go out west -- Fairmont and Jackson -- if they get cars it sets us back. If we get cars, it sets them back," Chicos told ABC6.

"If you have a backup in one part of the country, it can have an effect hundreds of miles away," Walz said.

Minnesota farmers say crude oil trains coming from North Dakota and Canada are creating heavier rail traffic, leading to delays in shipping agricultural products.

"There's no doubt oil output has increased,” Walz said. “We simply believe if you can move things by pipeline, move them by pipeline, and you can't move soybeans by pipeline."

Photo: ABC 6 News