MFU Submits Testimony to the STB on Rail Access
Montana Farmers Union (MFU) submitted written testimony on behalf of its statewide membership to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which held a hearing on rail access today in Washington, D.C.
“MFU appreciates the testimony of NFU President Roger Johnson and of Terry Whiteside of Whiteside & Associates, Billings, who both expertly represented the concerns of agriculture producers in person at the STB hearing,” said MFU President Alan Merrill.
“Montana and its neighboring states are experiencing long delays in rail car deliveries,” said Merrill. “These delays and car shortages translate into expensive penalties to grain elevators that ultimately are passed on to farmers.”
In its written testimony MFU notes that the delays and car availability problems experienced by Montana agriculture producers and others is tied directly to increased export coal traffic from the Powder River Basin (PRB) and the very profitable Bakken oil traffic, both of which are traveling to the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
“Montana grain producers need – and deserve – better service and to be treated as a rail priority,” said Merrill.
Further, the MFU testimony suggests several actions to address these service problems:
ask BNSF to share the loss costs (which are significant) with producers, and
dedicate and guarantee a stated portion of rail traffic to agriculture (keeping in mind that the non-shuttle elevators remain a vital resource to support crop diversity in Montana).
Also needing to be addressed and mitigated by the rail company is the potential enormous cost to local communities for infrastructure expenditures that could be triggered by large increases in rail traffic for coal and oil shipments.