The Department of Transportation's Surface Transportation Board (STB) has ordered the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific railways to report on how they intend to maintain timely delivery of enough fertilizer throughout the Midwest so farmers can begin planting. The order came during an STB hearing at which farmers told the STB "that without timely delivery of adequate amounts of fertilizer, they will not be able to commence spring planting for the 2014 crop," the STB reported.
BNSF Railway Co. told the board it intends to add trains in Montana, the Dakotas and Minnesota to move fertilizer, saying, "simply put, we are working to deliver high volumes of fertilizer into the marketplace as quickly as we can. This increased service includes 52 fertilizer trainloads, with each train pulling 65-85 cars. Twenty-one trains are destined for South Dakota, 10 for North Dakota, six for Minnesota and two for Montana. The Canadian Pacific has not responded.
The STB also ordered the rail companies to provide weekly reports for the next six weeks on how much fertilizer is being delivered on the two lines. The reports are to include delivery dates by state, the number of railcars shipped or received.
The rails said their ongoing service problems in the Midwest are due to a perfect storm of problems, including cold temperatures, heavy snows, limited capacity and slowed speeds. Also, oil and gas shipments have competed for rail capacity.