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Source: Wheat Growers news release

The President of Wheat Growers Board of Directors testified before the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, D.C., on the growing crisis agriculture is facing over the lack of timely rail service to ship grain and bring in needed inputs for spring planting.

Board President Hal Clemensen, who farms near Conde, South Dakota, testified that his cooperative's "network of grain elevators and agronomy now being strangled by a lack of dependable, timely rail service that is creating economic hardship and frustration on the grain side and uncertainty and anxiety on the agronomy side."

Clemensen told the STB that agriculture in the Dakotas and the upper Midwest is critically dependent on reliable rail service, because the distance to markets makes trucks not viable, and without navigable rivers in the Dakotas, barges are not an alternative. He said that rail is the only viable mode of transportation for these bulk commodities.

Clemensen was one of a number of South Dakotans who testified at the hearing highlighting the Dakotas' unique situation, having no viable alternatives for grain shipping and delivering bulk quantities of needed inputs.

Others included U.S. Senator John Thune, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch, along with farmers, ethanol producers, representatives from other cooperatives in the Dakotas, the Grain and Feed Association, Grain Growers Association and the Farmers Union.

North Dakota and South Dakota are served primarily by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Canadian Pacific railroads. Clemensen noted that Wheat Growers has seen a deterioration of service with both carriers.

Clemensen said it's important that the STB protect agriculture's access to, and utilization of, the constrained rail capacity that this crisis brings.

"We do not want to see agricultural traffic de-prioritized or, worse yet, de-marketed. Agriculture has been a significant driver of this country's economic recovery, and any loss of service will set back the economic momentum that this key sector of our economy delivers."

The complete text of Clemensen's submitted testimony is available at:

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