Heitkamp Pressures STB on Rail Accountability


The Surface Transportation Board held a field hearing in Fargo on Thursday.

The following is a news release from the office of Senator Heidi Heitkamp:

FARGO, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp Thursday testified before the Surface Transportation Board (STB) during a field hearing in Fargo where she discussed her strong commitment to continue holding the railroads accountable for agriculture shipment delays across the state, which she has been pushing for since last February. 

At the hearing, Heitkamp stressed the urgency of improving agriculture shipment delays—which have been going on for months—and have significantly impacted North Dakota, where agriculture represents a quarter of the state’s economy. Noting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent forecast that net farm income will be down almost 14 percent this year, Heitkamp spoke out on behalf of farmers and elevators, whom she said should not be subject to further uncertainty from poor rail service.

“Our farmers and grain elevators should know that their crops will get to market and not sit on the side of the road for months,” said Heitkamp. “It is unacceptable that business as usual this past year has become not selling grain for fear of paying penalties for rail delays. This hurts our grain dealers, our producers, and our way of life in North Dakota. We need to keep pushing on the railroads to make more changes and end the backlog, and today’s hearing was a needed step.”

Since July, Heitkamp has been in consistent contact with the STB about the need to turn up the heat on railroad companies in order to make up for these extreme delays. During a meeting with STB Chairman Daniel Elliot in July, Heitkamp stressed the issue by going over status reports from Canadian Pacific and BNSF, and Elliot agreed to continue to pressure these railways ahead of harvest. Today’s field hearing is another important step.

Heitkamp has been leading the charge in pushing Canadian Pacific, BNSF, and others to rectify the unacceptable backlog of agriculture shipment in the middle of North Dakota’s harvest. As a result of Heitkamp’s early action in February, BNSF has made much-needed investments in order to alleviate delays, reporting 1,016 past-due cars at the end of August—down from 1,336 past due cars the week before – though more action is still needed. 

She has also been pressing on Canadian Pacific to focus more on addressing the agriculture shipment delays, and provide more details about the backlog and what it is doing to reduce it. Last week, Heitkamp called out Canadian Pacific CEO E. Hunter Harrison for the company’s new, yet seriously flawed, system of handling delays of agriculture shipments in North Dakota which ignores thousands of current unfulfilled requests from grain elevators, and forces North Dakota’s farmers and grain operators to start from scratch in the middle of the state’s harvest season.

About two weeks ago, some grain elevators using Canadian Pacific reported past-due cars ranging anywhere from 200 to 2,000 cars. But after about a week, under the company’s new system, those delays range from zero to 50 cars, despite Canadian Pacific moving far fewer cars than necessary to actually achieve such dramatic reductions in this short timeframe.


Source:  Office of Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Posted by Haylie Shipp



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