ND farmers lose millions due to ag shipment delays

Rail traffic issues result in an approximate loss of $66 million for state's farmers.

A conservative estimate of how much revenue North Dakota farmers have lost due to agriculture shipment delays over the course of the previous four months is $66 million, according to a study U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp 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 Dakotans are struggling due to rail traffic congestion, Heitkamp asked Dr. William Nganje, chair of NDSU agribusiness and applied economics department, to quantify the economic harm the state’s agriculture industry is experiencing.

“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. I’ll keeping pushing on federal regulators and industry to make that happen.”

NDSU found that there has been approximately $66.6 million loss in North Dakota farm revenue for wheat, corn, and soybean crops that were sold from January through April 14, and there is a potential of another $95.4 million loss if the status quo conditions remain. Wheat, corn and soybeans are three of the largest crops by acreage planted in North Dakota. All three rely heavily on freight rail transportation to be moved to market.          

The analysis was limited to spring wheat, corn and soybean, and did not include potential losses for the sale of durum wheat, barley, sunflower, canola, field pea, lentils, dry edible beans, flax, oats or food grade soybeans, the study noted. “There was not enough readily available information to include these extra crops in the analysis.”

Additionally, the analysis did not include the increased costs incurred by North Dakota agricultural businesses 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.

Heitkamp has repeatedly pressed the railroad industry to fix inadequate agriculture shipping service in North Dakota.

The harsh winter exacerbated grain transportation issues for many states, however the U.S. Surface Transportation Board recently took action to keep railway companies accountable as the 2014 spring planting commenced. 
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