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Farmers, ranchers and processing facilities rely almost entirely on railroads to move their agricultural products out of South Dakota since most of the grain produced in the state is exported. So, rail long has been recognized as a significant component of the state's transportation system, wrote South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard in his "Investing in Rail" column released Dec. 23."It's no secret that the state's railroads have struggled to keep up with the volume of commodities our farmers need to move to market. The problem is a result of many factors: cold weather, back-to-back record harvests, the sale of the former DM&E line, increased shipping of oil by rail, and others," he wrote.But South Dakotans and railroads are stepping up to boost rail capacity. The Dakota & Iowa, Dakota Missouri Valley & Western, Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern, and Dakota Southern railroads have committed $10.3 million for improvements on South Dakota rail lines, Daugaard wrote."Farmers and other private citizens have donated $1 million of their own money for rail projects. South Dakota also recently received a federal grant of $12.7 million for rail improvements," he said. "All these contributions, combined with $23.2 million in state loans and grants, have allowed us to improve our rail infrastructure across the state. These upgrades have resulted in at least $80 million in additional private investments in grain-handling facilities."In addition, since the governor announced Dec. 16 that the state set aside $4 million in "Future Funds" to incent additional rail investments by private entities, the South Dakota Department of Transportation has been contacted by several interested parties."The investments we make today will have a positive impact for decades to come and give our farmers better access to worldwide markets," Daugaard wrote.
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