April 18, 2014

North Dakota Congressman Cramer To Host Farm Bill Seminar

Congressman Kevin Cramer announced he will bring two senior staff members of the House Agriculture Committee to Fargo for a public Farm Bill seminar and question-and-answer session. Matt Schertz, senior professional staff member, and Bart Fischer, chief economist of the Committee, will answer questions on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill for agriculture representatives, crop insurance agents, and the public.

“Since the farm bill was signed into law, many agriculture professionals have questions on how it is being implemented. With the expanded crop insurance options presented in the new Farm Bill, farmers are confronted with decisions which will have multi-year consequences. In bringing to North Dakota two of the experts most involved in drafting and negotiating the Farm Bill, my hope is to provide answers and guidance,” said Cramer.

Event details are below:

Friday, May 2

 Seminar and Q&A Session with Senior Agriculture Committee Staff

10:00am to 12:00pm

Auditorium, Room 100

1305 19th Ave North



Wheat Growers Board President Testifies On Slow Rail Service

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 centers…is 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: http://wheatgrowers.com/images/File/Hal-s-STB-Testimony-Full-Statement-4-10-14.pdf.


Ag Organizations Testify On Rail Issues

Several agricultural organizations had representatives speak before the Surface Transportation Board at a public hearing on rail service issues yesterday (Thursday). Minnesota soybean farmer Lance Peterson told the board how soybeans are being impacted by transportation costs as more than 50-percent of U.S. soybeans are exported – with a value of more than 28-billion dollars in 2013. Peterson says many in the world rely on U.S. soybean farmers to meet their protein and vegetable oil demands – and farmers rely on trucks, rail and barges to move products to those markets. He says the real issue is the shifting of rail assets to the rapidly expanding oil industry occurring at the expense of longstanding shippers who rely on rail movement to conduct business.

Growth Energy Director of Regulatory Affairs Chris Bliley testified ethanol price spikes have not been caused by a lack of ethanol production or supply – but purely because of an inability to get timely rail transportation. Bliley says many plants have reduced – or halted – production because their storage capacity is fully utilized. On top of that – he says the ethanol industry has seen increased tariff rates on certain routes with very little notice. The bottom line – according to Bliley – is the railroad industry has failed in its sole responsibility to transport goods in a timely and effective manner – which has had a ripple effect on American consumers.