Hoeven, Heitkamp, Cramer Work to Resolve Agriculture Shipping Delays

Hoeven Brings Together BNSF, Crystal Sugar, Farmers Union to Seek Solutions

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer today brought together BNSF Railway Executive Director Matt Rose and senior officials of American Crystal Sugar and Farmers Union to help resolve shipping delays for agriculture products and sugar that have occurred this winter.

North Dakota agricultural producers have expressed concern that growers aren’t getting timely service from the railroads serving the state to ship their products. They say under normal conditions rail cars arrive to pick up grain within three to four days of a prearranged schedule. Currently, they are being delayed up to three weeks. When delays are longer than the prearranged schedule, the end users imposes a fine, which is absorbed by the producer.

American Crystal Sugar Co., which operates in Grand Forks, is also being impacted. The company says only about half of the cars they usually have are positioned at customer locations.

The delegation asked Rose to address the rerouting of Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Rose said other trains are pulling off to allow the Empire Builder to run as scheduled. Currently, the eastbound Amtrak train is running normally along the northern tier, but westbound Amtrak trains are being rerouted and bypassing scheduled stops in Grand Forks and Devils Lake. Rose committed to restoring normal service by Feb. 28 or sooner if possible.

To address the growth in North Dakota’s shipping volume, BNSF Railway has committed to:

  • Invest $5 billion in new resources this year, including $600 million in North Dakota
  • Add 5,000 crew members to maintenance system-wide, including 250 maintenance workers in North Dakota
  • Add 500 new locomotives, as well as an additional 125 temporary locomotives that will be dispatched to North Dakota within the next two weeks to take immediate action in the near term
  • Add 5,000 new rail cars
  • Check on suitable cars for sugar shipments in Grand Forks
  • Will post past due orders on their website for agricultural shippers to facilitate better communication between growers and their customers.

“BNSF has committed to large investments in resources and people to meet North Dakota’s growing needs,” the delegation said. “The challenge is to meet these needs as soon as possible, and they have committed to add 125 locomotives and more people right away, as well as providing weekly updates on the web as to their service progress. We also called on BNSF to make sure Amtrak customers have a reliable schedule and reasonable service. We will continue to work with BNSF and its North Dakota customers until the situation improves.”

Participating in the meeting were:

  • John Doxsie, President of United Sugars, Inc.
  • Jim Johnson, President of U.S. Beet Sugar Association
  • Mark Watne, President of the North Dakota Farmers Union
  • David Berg, CEO and President of American Crystal Sugar Co.
  • Matt Rose, Executive Director of BNSF Railway
  • Dan Wogsland, Executive Director of North Dakota Grain Growers Association, member North Dakota Agriculture Rail Council