WASHINGTON, April 18, 2014 – Canadian Pacific told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board today that the railroad is committed to doing its part to see that U.S. farmers in the Upper Midwest get the fertilizer they need for spring planting and that deliveries should improve as “extreme winter weather” blamed for congestion at a Chicago hub eases.
Unlike BNSF Railway Co., Canadian Pacific did not say it would add any trains for extra deliveries. A day earlier, BNSF told the board it would add 52 trains to deliver fertilizer to destinations in the Upper Midwest over the next six weeks.
STB earlier this week ordered both companies to report by today their plans for delivering more fertilizer to the region after farmers, agricultural producers and lawmakers including Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., complained that the delays in deliveries would interfere with spring planting of wheat, corn and other crops.
Keith Creel, Canadian Pacific’s president and chief operating officer, told the board in a letter that his company is “a small, residual player” in moving fertilizer and plant nutrients, with an overall market share of about 10 percent. He said CP moves on average 49 rail cars a day in the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota.
Thus he said the company was a “little surprised” at the board’s order, citing its “relatively small presence” in delivering fertilizer in the region. And he asked that the board rethink another part of its order – that the company provide weekly reports on fertilizer deliveries for the next six weeks.
In a filing yesterday, BNSF said it would add 52 trains to deliver fertilizer to destinations in the Upper Midwest over the next six week. Each train would pull 65 to 85 cars. The railroad said 21 trainloads are destined for South Dakota, 10 for North Dakota, six for Minnesota, two for Montana, with the rest going to other states.
“Simply put, we are working to deliver high volumes of fertilizer into the marketplace as quickly as we can," BNSF said in a response to the STB’s order. Creel also promised cooperation. “We are ready to move fertilizer and plant nutrients as they are presented to the railway,” he said in his letter.
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.
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