With the nation’s largest river system flowing right through our state, we often take for granted what it takes to actually ship goods around the country.
Most grain farmers here in the state get their products to market means a relatively short truck drive to a grain elevator, often at a port along the river. However, for most folks in the rest of the country, it means shipping by rail.
For the past couple of years, railways nationwide have been congested due to a multitude of issues. American Farm Bureau transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley says this congestion has made it difficult for farmers to move grain.
“Because of this large harvest that we had last year and these rail issues, farmers were getting a lower price for their goods,” Walmsley said. “Since then, we've progressed and not seen as many issues. The railroads really responded with the need for putting more trains on the rails and trying to adjust the system to handle more of the goods, and luckily we haven’t seen those issues as bad as we did last year.”
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing Wednesday and addressed some of these rail issues.
“It was a pretty broad discussion on the many challenges that are out there, but it’s something we think Congress needs to continue to take a look at to ensure the railroads are operating the best way that they can and that agriculture is getting the best service that they can,” Walmsley said.
He did add that steps are being taken to move forward. The railroads continue to discuss capital investment to build capacity and make improvements.
“I think there’s going to continue to be some oversight and investigation into the whole picture of what our freight rail network looks like,” Senator Thune last year introduced a Surface Transportation Board - STB - reform bill that Farm Bureau supported. We expect him to introduce similar legislation this Congress.”
Even if it doesn’t hugely impact farmers here, it’s important to continue researching this issue so that farmers and ranchers can reach their export markets as timely and efficiently as possible.