Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Sept. 11, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) praised Sens. Thune (R-SD) and Rockefeller (D-WV) for the introduction of a bipartisan bill that would improve the functioning of the Surface Transportation Board and ensure that the agency is more responsive to the needs of its many customers.

“I commend Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune for addressing this important issue on behalf of our family farmers and their cooperatives’ shipping commodities,” said Doug Sombke, chairman of NFU’s legislative committee and president of South Dakota Farmers Union. “After several STB hearings throughout the past year it’s extremely gratifying to know STB and the U.S. Congress are listening to our concerns,” he said.

Sombke noted that while addressing many of the issues facing farmers and shippers who are dependent on shipping by rail, it was unclear if the bill would address the issue of whether the fines assessed to shippers for late or non-delivery could be assessed to the railroad for not meeting delivery deadlines. “I surely hope railroads are held to the same standards as our cooperatives,” he said.

In the upper Midwest, where shipping by rail is often the only option for the region’s farmers, rail transportation is months behind schedule, resulting in farmers and cooperatives being assessed hefty fines for late deliveries. In South Dakota, some farmers have already been forced to pile wheat on the ground because elevators can’t accept the increased liability. At one particular elevator, 3 million of the yearly 15 million bushels of grain will not move before this year’s harvest begins.

Sombke noted that when the government allows the formation of a monopoly, as it has with the railroad, it should maintain strong oversight to ensure that the rail monopoly is responsive to its captive customers. “We hope this is the beginning of increased congressional oversight of the STB and the beginning of the end of this ridiculous and costly problem,” he said.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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