Keeping SD Transportation on Track

South Dakota depends on reliable and efficient transportation options to ensure economic vitality in every community in the state. Two of South Dakota’s largest economic drivers – agriculture and business – are joining together to underscore the importance of keeping the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad project moving forward. 

Today, two leading agricultural groups combined voices with the state’s Chamber of Commerce and affected landowners to send a clear message to the outsider opposition using stall tactics to delay the DM&E rail expansion project. 

“Anti-DM&E groups, including the Rochester Coalition, are using underhanded and deliberate attempts to persuade landowners not to negotiate with the DM&E,” said Lisa Richardson, executive director of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC).  “We’re not saying those outside interests don’t have the right to try to stand in the way of South Dakota’s ability to compete by having access to reliable transportation. The Rochester Coalition and other opponents need to be honest about their involvement. Deceit and deception shouldn’t be a part of their strategy.”

The DM&E expansion is one of the biggest opportunities for economic growth that will positively impact the state. At a time when fuel costs have hit all time highs, South Dakota is sitting on top of a great resource – the DM&E rail expansion – which will provide more affordable transportation options to all South Dakota businesses.

“I know firsthand as a producer involved in corn, ethanol and livestock, that the access to competitive transportation is a critical part of our ability to be successful and keep our communities thriving,” said Bill Chase, SDCGA president.

According to emails recently made public, the Mid-States Coalition and Rochester Coalition, through a paid consultant, advised landowners how to string-out the process by appearing as though they were willing to negotiate in response to DM&E’s offers even if the landowner had no intention to work out a deal.

“DM&E has worked hard over the years to negotiate with property owners in the alignment,” said Mike Held, CEO of the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation. “However, groups such as the Mid-States Coalition, working with the Rochester Coalition, have interfered with and undermined these negotiations. For the DM&E, eminent domain is a last resort. Rochester Coalition’s consultants understood this, criticized DM&E for negotiating in good faith instead of relying on eminent domain to acquire right of way, and have used the process to delay the project.”

The deceptive tactics revealed opponents’ efforts to deny South Dakota’s agriculture, retail and manufacturing companies from reaching growth markets and to better compete nationwide. 

South Dakota has a very diverse economy that includes manufacturing, cement, bentonite clay and forest products. Each of these sectors, which offer some of the best paying jobs in the state, need reliable and modern rail transportation,” said David Owen, president, S.D. Chamber of Commerce. “Rail today serves many of those businesses. And that’s just what’s there today. The addition of more efficient and reliable service will open up greater possibilities in the future. But all this is being held up because of the actions of a few.”

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