WASHINGTON, April 16 -- The U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) yesterday ordered the Canadian Pacific and BNFS railway companies to report by Friday their plans for fertilizer delivery in the Midwest.

At a hearing last week in Washington, farmers and agriculture producers told board members “that without timely delivery of adequate amounts of fertilizer, they will not be able to commence spring planting for the 2014 crop,” according to the STB.

The board also ordered the companies to provide weekly reports for the next six weeks, starting April 25, regarding the delivery of fertilizer on their respective networks. The reports have to include delivery data by state, with the number of rail cars shipped or received, billed to agricultural destinations. The order was signed by Board Chairman Daniel Elliott III and Vice Chair Ann Begeman.

Rail companies have said service has been affected by what some call a “perfect storm” of challenges, including extremely cold temperatures this winter which limited capacity and slowed rail speeds, plus competition from domestic oil and coal shipments and bottlenecks in key terminals like Chicago.

Senators John Thune, R.-S.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D.-N.D., commended the STB for taking action.

“North Dakota farmers have serious deadlines coming up and we need to know that their fertilizer will arrive in time,” Heitkamp said in a news release. “This is a needed step that I hope will lead to rail service improvements so farmers can access supplies for a strong start to the planting season.”

Thune said he would continue to press the STB and the railroads to improve service across South Dakota. “Continued rail disruptions are not only having a direct impact on agricultural producers, grain handlers and the ethanol industry, but also manufacturers and main street businesses,” he said.

The Surface Transportation Board was created by Congress in 1995 as the successor to the Interstate Commerce Commission. Among other duties, the board has jurisdiction over railroad rate and service issues.


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