Agriculture Industry Pleased With Freight Rail Reform

"The law increases proactive problem solving and accountability”

For farmers and ranchers, shipping their product to other states is just as important as growing them.

This is why those in the agriculture industry are grateful for having a reliable and transparent board looking over the nation’s freight rail system.

But it always hasn’t been this way.

“Following intensive oversight activity, I introduced the Surface Transportation Board Re-authorization Act of 2015,” says U.S. Senator John Thune.

That act went into law in December 2015.

“The law increases proactive problem solving and accountability,” adds Thune.

Before, Senator Thune says it was hard for the Surface Transportation Board, which has jurisdiction over railroad merges, rates and service issues, to meet with one another.

“Because the STB had three members and two members would form a quorum, members could not talk to one another about important regulatory and managerial issues without encountering procedural hurdles.”

So the Re-authorization Act increased the members from 3 to 5.

It also made the board an independent federal agency, which allows them to initiate their own investigations.

Something that one farmer says would have been nice back in 2013.

“We had a lot of pressure on the rail because we had a lot of oil coming out of North Dakota and the BNSF was really short of cars,” says Vice President of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, Troy Knecht. “They didn’t have enough cars or engineers on the rail and we had elevators that were waiting for trains and were delayed, and that causes economic harm for these shippers because their product may sit there and go out of commission and they have a schedule to keep.”

As a fourth generation farmer himself, Knecht is grateful Senator Thune updated the bill that hasn’t been touched for 2 decades.

“We need to have rail that works and as we have emerging exports or markets coming forward there’s going to be more pressure, so we need to be ahead of it,” says Knecht.

Thursday was the first time the Surface Transportation Board met since the Re-authorization Act was approved.

A South Dakota hearing on freight rail system was held here in Sioux Falls.