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Provision in Congress-approved 'Farm Bill' would direct USDA to study rail service, rates

On Wednesday, the House and Senate passed the final version of The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, or Farm Bill, which proposes to provide farmers more flexibility to determine the crops they plant, and help beginning farmers and ranchers get a start in agriculture.

The bill also includes a provision authored by Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) that would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study railroads' service reliability and rates associated with coal, fertilizer, agricultural products and renewable fuels.

The department would "study the impact of rail service on rural America and report to Congress on whether additional competition is needed in the rail industry to protect our grain elevators and other agricultural shippers from abusive rail rates," said Walz in a prepared statement.

Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), which backs Congressional efforts to "bring accountability and fairness" to the rail industry, supports the study, said Executive Director Bob Szabo.

"Rail customers have believed for years that railroad monopoly power is adversely affecting rural America in a variety of ways, from slowing economic growth to overcharging for millions of tons of products shipped each year in the U.S., and we are pleased that a Congressionally authorized study will now shed some light on this situation," he said.

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More News from 5/16/2008