U.S. Senator John Thune wants railroad companies to work faster to uncork the bottleneck of freight cars nationwide. Thune, who's the ranking Republican on the Senate committee which oversees rail service, testified Thursday about the hardships South Dakota farmers and ethanol producers are facing because of the backlog. Thune says without quick action by the rail companies, the problem will only worsen this spring.
U.S. Senator John Thune is calling out railroad companies to get more freight cars into South Dakota so farmers can get their products moving down the line.
"This is a major economic issue. Not just for grain elevators but for ethanol plants and anybody who uses the railroad to move freight in South Dakota and that's why it's got to get fixed," Sen. John Thune, (R) South Dakota said.
Thune says some of the delays are understandable, due to the extremely cold winter and the robust fall harvest. But he says railroad companies need to step up and get more cars rolling before spring planting.
"It won't be very long before we have a new crop coming out and we may not have last year's crop done with in terms of getting it on the railroad and shipped before the new crop is ready to be moved as well," Thune said.
According to Thune, some companies are making a priority of getting fertilizer to farmers by increasing shuttle train service.
"Based on my conversation with Burlington Northern, Santa Fe that they do have a plan in place, that they understand how critical it is," Thune said.
But Thune says with increasing rail demand from the North Dakota oil boom, railroad companies also need a long-term plan in place to make sure there are no more backlogs further down the tracks.
Thune's office plans to remain in contact with the rail companies to make sure they're following through with efforts to deliver farm fertilizer.