Senator Thune discusses rail reform with ag leaders

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South Dakota’s senior U.S. Senator John Thune held a roundtable discussion with a group of farmers, commodity organizations and agribusiness representatives this morning in Sioux Falls at the South Dakota Corn office to visit about rail reform legislation and to take input on rail service issues.

Recently, Senator Thune along with Senator Bill Nelson of Florida introduced a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Surface Transportation Board, which oversees the railroad industry.

Rail conditions have been less than ideal for South Dakota shippers during the past couple of years due to inclement weather, enormous increases in Bakken oil shipments and record grain production. These conditions have dealt shippers of grain, ethanol and other commodities a large rail car backlog and drastic increases in rail car prices, which in turn negatively affected the state’s family farmers.

“Through those tough times, the STB acted admirably, but strengthening the agency is absolutely crucial for farmers and ag shippers as rail issues will undoubtedly rise again in the future,” noted Doug Noem, a farmer from Bryant and South Dakota Corn Growers Association director spoke on behalf of the organization. “Reauthorizing the STB will give the agency the ability to streamline rate case procedures, create a meaningful alternative dispute resolution process and permit the board to launch its own investigations.”

During the roundtable discussion, Senator Thune spoke optimistically about the bill’s chances of getting to President Obama’s desk and stated that the railroads have also spoken positively about the legislation.

We’d like to thank Senator Thune for his leadership in introducing this much needed rail legislation which will without a doubt provide true reform where it is needed in order to enhance the STB’s ability to solve costly and vexing issues as they arise, and in a more timely manner, benefitting shippers, farmers and consumers alike.”

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