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Published April 21, 2014, 09:51 AM

Rail debate off track

Progressive Rail magazine, May 2013, said Burlington Northern Santa Fe now moves about seven or eight unit trains per day from the Bakken, or 600,000 barrels of oil. And daily volume is projected to be 700,000 barrels by year’s end and to 1 million barrels (current ethanol production capacity) by some point in 2014. BNSF transferred engines from the upper Midwest to increase movement of oil cars from 9,000 in 2009 to 400,000 in 2013.

By: Orrie Swayze , Agweek

Progressive Rail magazine, May 2013, said Burlington Northern Santa Fe now moves about seven or eight unit trains per day from the Bakken, or 600,000 barrels of oil. And daily volume is projected to be 700,000 barrels by year’s end and to 1 million barrels (current ethanol production capacity) by some point in 2014. BNSF transferred engines from the upper Midwest to increase movement of oil cars from 9,000 in 2009 to 400,000 in 2013.

Where are the engines that should be serving old business, Upper Midwest agriculture? An agronomist friend of mine often asks: “Can you see what is happening or are you just plain stupid?”

Commercial interests are asking individual farmers to speak out because we have more latitude to speak frankly. It does not take a lot of frank speaking to expose BNSF’s fraudulent abuse of public trust and our free enterprise system that extracts wealth from the Upper Midwest.

On-track discussions should not be about car shortages or BNSF’s logistical issues across the nation that they want media and the public to talk about. It is simply about BNSF’s bottleneck or the limited engines and crews available to pull cars and who gets them. BNSF has obviously given Bakken oil producers the unwarranted priority to get increasing numbers of engines necessary to set significantly higher monthly production records.

Meanwhile Upper Midwest agricultural producers do not have engines and crews to even service our old business as grain rots on the ground. Fertilizer sits in distant warehouses and finished processing products are stranded, with some plants running at half throttle or shut down.

All this and BNSF only gains a sympathy pass for its self-inflicted logistical debacle. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars are extracted from our Upper Midwest economy almost daily?

Editor’s note: Swayze is a farmer and ethanol supporter from Wilmot, S.D.

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