Reps. Jim Costa, D-CA, and Ralph Norman, R-SC, led a bipartisan letter sent June 29 to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) outlining lawmakers’ concerns about deficient rail service that has impeded agricultural shipments.
More than 50 lawmakers signed the letter, which highlighted poor service experienced by feed mills, integrated livestock and poultry operations, and other agricultural operations.
“This has led to shutdowns and slowdowns at ethanol plants, soybean crushers, flour mills, and livestock and poultry feed mills that are severely challenging agricultural supply chains and leading to lower prices for producers and higher food prices for consumers,” they wrote. “Instances of severely delayed feed deliveries to farmers to support these operations are all too common, and at grain export destinations, vessels endure long loading wait times due to delayed train delivery. During this time the grain exporter, not the railroad, pays demurrage charges to the shipping company.”
Lawmakers also said the “ability for the fertilizer and grain and feed industries to ship by rail is imperative for curbing the impending food shortages many parts of the world are facing. For these reasons, timely and uninterrupted fertilizer and grain rail shipments are vital to the country’s interests.”
NGFA contributed a statement of support to the letter, which Rep. Norman highlighted in this press release.
STB on June 13 told four Class I railroads that their plans for improving shipping delays were inadequate and ordered the companies to provide more detailed data to fulfill the agency’s request for information in May. The Board had required BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSX), Norfolk Southern Railway (NSR), and Union Pacific Railroad (UP) to develop service recovery plans that would specifically describe their key remedial initiatives and promote a clearer vantage point into operating conditions on the rail network.
STB issued the order for service recovery plans in May shortly after holding the April 26-27 hearing on “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service,” during which NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert testified on behalf of NGFA members.