A CONSERVATIVE estimate of how much revenue North Dakota farmers have lost due to agricultural shipment delays over the course of the previous four months is $66 million, according to a study Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) asked North Dakota State University (NDSU) to conduct.
The study also found that if conditions don't improve, farmers could stand to lose an additional $95 million in income.
In her efforts to highlight how much North Dakota farmers are struggling due to rail traffic congestion, Heitkamp asked Dr. William Nganje, chair of the NDSU agribusiness and applied economics department, to quantify the economic harm the state's agriculture industry is experiencing.
NDSU found an approximately $66.6 million loss in North Dakota farm revenue for wheat, corn and soybean crops sold from January through April 14, and there is potential for an additional $95.4 million loss if the conditions continue.
Wheat, corn and soybeans are three of North Dakota's largest crops by acreage planted, and they all rely heavily on freight rail transportation to be moved to market.
The NDSU analysis was limited to spring wheat, corn and soybeans and did not include potential losses for the sale of durum wheat, barley, sunflowers, canola, field peas, lentils, dry edible beans, flax, oats or food-grade soybeans because "there was not enough readily available information to include these extra crops," the report notes.
Additionally, the analysis did not include the increased costs incurred by North Dakota agribusinesses to transport processed agricultural products out of the state. Examples include refined sugar, ethanol, dried distillers grains, high-fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, semolina flour and pasta, barley malt, canola and sunflower oil and canola and sunflower meal.
"This report confirms what I have been stressing to government regulators and the railroad industry: The problems with ag shipments are threatening the livelihood of the thousands of North Dakotans who are involved in agriculture," said Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"I thank the talented researchers at NDSU for putting together this information, which reinforces why we need to help our farmers get their supplies and move their crops to market," she added. "I'll keep pushing federal regulators and industry to make that happen."
Heitkamp has repeatedly pressed the railroad industry to fix inadequate agricultural shipping service in North Dakota.
Although the harsh winter exacerbated grain transportation issues for many states, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board recently took action to hold railway companies accountable as spring planting commenced and increased demand for fertilizer shipments.