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7/21/2014



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Grain: BNSF, RRVW to serve North Dakota facility; Dakota governments continue to seek timelier rail service


BNSF Railway Co. and the Red River Valley & Western Railroad Co. (RRVW) have reached an agreement to provide unit-train service to James Valley Grain L.L.C.’s proposed shuttle facility in Verona, N.D., Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) announced late last week.

Construction is scheduled to begin in October on the facility, which is designed to load 110- to 120-car units trains and store about 1.2 million bushels of grain in bins. Completion is anticipated sometime after the 2015 grain harvest.

"The agreement BNSF and RRVW have reached … is an important step in our ongoing efforts to improve rail service in North Dakota, especially for our state’s farmers who rely heavily on trains” said Hoeven in a press release. "New service to the proposed facility in Verona will improve the reliability of rail transportation in our state, ensuring that our producers are able to receive the supplies they need and ship the items they grow."

Hoeven earlier last week also urged BNSF executives to continue relieving car backlogs on agriculture shipments prior to the fall harvest. BNSF has reduced past-due grain cars in North Dakota from about 8,000 earlier this year to 4,000, and plans to commit additional resources, such as spotting 450 cars per day to reduce the backlog to about 2,000 past-due cars before fall starts, said Hoeven. In addition, BNSF has committed to offering more shuttle trains this fall than it did in 2013.

Hoeven has asked railroad officials to come to North Dakota to hear directly from the state’s agriculture commodity groups, and he expects a meeting to take place within the first two weeks of August.

"We continue pressing the railroad to eliminate backlogs and get our agriculture shipments moving for our producers, especially with the harvest season fast approaching," he said.

South Dakota government officials also are urging railroads to improve ag products service. On Friday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard sent a delegation of state officials to Washington, D.C., to meet with Surface Transportation Board (STB) members to discuss ways to address rail service issues impacting grain transportation in South Dakota. The delegation included the heads of South Dakota's agriculture and transportation departments.

"Our agriculture economy is highly dependent on rail. Our farmers and ranchers have the potential for record crops this year, but without rail shippers to deliver those commodities to the market, our producers won’t realize that success and our economy will be negatively impacted," said Daugaard in a press release.

In April, state officials addressed the STB about the backlog of rail shipments, and the board directed BNSF and Canadian Pacific to report their plans to ensure fertilizer deliveries. The governor’s office also has maintained communications with representatives from BNSF, CP and the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad to share the state’s concerns about rail service delays.



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