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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton last week sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) urging the agency to use its authority to gain more clarity about what BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific are doing to eliminate the backlog of grain-car shipments.Dayton called on the STB to bring all parties together to find "an urgently-needed resolution" because the severe backlog is impacting Minnesota farmers, he said in a press release. A study released in July by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture found that farmers in the state lost an estimated $109 million due to rail shipping delays and higher transportation costs, said Dayton. The governor asked the STB to include the study in the agenda for a National Grain Car Council meeting to be held Sept. 11 in Minnesota.Farmers continue to store more corn and other ag products in the Midwest due to low grain prices, problems with rail-car availability and trucking bottlenecks occurring at elevators."The additional costs imposed by this rail crisis exacerbate already low grain prices and drive prices below many farmers' costs of production," Dayton wrote in his letter dated Aug. 27.The STB has required BNSF and CP to provide weekly reports on their progress in reducing grain-car backlogs. But BNSF's report dated Aug. 15 failed to address the turn rates, backlog and plan for grain shuttles within its system, Dayton claims."With the harvest season fast approaching, Minnesota farmers need to know the plans for getting their crops to market," he wrote. "I urge that BNSF and CP be required to provide current, detailed and accurate information on their grain shipments, and plans to serve Minnesota farmers adequately."In their weekly reports to the STB, BNSF and CP officials say their respective railroads are making progress in reducing the grain-car backlogs. For example, in its report dated Aug. 29, BNSF showed past-due cars totaling 2,029, down 22.2 percent from the 2,609 cars reported on Aug. 22. CP's Aug. 29 report states that customers have removed 20,710 open requests from its system and the number of open requests stood at 9,010."Over the next couple of weeks, as other customers remove additional open requests we expect the number of open requests to continue to come down significantly," CP officials said in the report.
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