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Published August 04, 2014, 09:48 AM

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A South Dakota elevator is full and shuts its doors as a result of poor rail service, Canadian Pacific's CEO offers to visit North Dakota to discuss grain shipment concerns and the North Dakota Ag Coalition joins the opposition to the Clean Water amendment.

By: Agweek Staff and Wire reports, Agweek

SD elevator full, shuts doors as a result of poor rail service

• PIERRE, S.D. — Jeremy Frost, grain merchandising manager for Midwest Cooperatives elevator in Pierre, S.D., describes wheat marketing as “horrible, embarrassing.” He has shut down the Pierre elevator, one of the early rail performance casualties in the 2014 harvest campaign. Midwest Cooperatives has locations in Pierre, Onida, Blunt, Philip, Kadoka, Draper and Highmore, all in South Dakota, and is associated with CHS Inc. The elevator is served largely by the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad based in Rapid City, S.D., which was sold to Genesee & Wyoming Inc. on May 31, by Canadian Pacific Railroad. Frost says all of his elevators are full. “I’ve been full in Pierre for a full week and have had the elevator doors closed there. We’re less than a quarter done with the winter wheat harvest, and just starting spring wheat. We’re piling it on the ground in Pierre and looking for other locations to pile it.” Farmers are coping in a variety of ways, he says. Some are going south into Nebraska with their wheat, or into the corn and bean country to the east. “Typically, they’d go 50 miles round-trip to sell grain and now it’s 150 miles or more.” The big terminal for Midwest Cooperatives in Onida has gotten enough cars to run for half a day a time, but nothing near track capacity. The elevator has fully loaded cars, and the facility is full.

CP CEO offers to visit ND to discuss grain shipment concerns

• WASHINGTON, D.C. — Canadian Pacific Railway CEO Hunter Harrison has offered to visit North Dakota to discuss the rail company’s efforts to reduce the backlog of grain shipments in the state. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., accepted Harrison’s offer to meet in person with shippers and commodity groups in North Dakota, with details to be announced as soon as they are available. “After a thorough discussion of the rail backlog, I was encouraged by Mr. Harrison’s offer to visit North Dakota and meet with farmers concerned about getting their products to market,” Cramer says. Cramer also asked Harrison about the Canadian government’s decision in March to fine railways if they fail to move at least 500,000 tons or 5,500 rail cars of domestic grain. “I have concerns about U.S. producers being put on a lower priority in light of the mandates in Canada. Mr. Harrison informed me CP has not altered any of its operations in the United States as a result of the order,” Cramer adds.

ND Ag Coalition joins opposition to Clean Water amendment

• BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Ag Coalition has voted unanimously to oppose the proposed Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment that would create a conservation fund using oil tax revenues. The Ag Coalition consists of more than 40 organizations with a direct interest in agriculture, including commodity groups, landowners and farmer-owned cooperatives. Its opposition was announced July 31 in a news release from the Greater North Dakota Chamber, which belongs to a separate coalition of more than 40 businesses, community, industry and agricultural organizations also trying to defeat the proposed ballot measure. Sponsors of the constitutional amendment must file at least 26,904 signatures from qualified voters by Aug. 6 to secure a spot on the Nov. 4 ballot. They say they’re on track to collect 40,000 signatures and are confident the measure will make the ballot. The fund would receive 5 percent of the state’s share of oil extraction tax revenue for use on projects benefiting clean water, flood control, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. Opponents say the fund would rake in $300 million to $400 million every two years for the next 25. While sponsors have used the figure $150 million, they don’t dispute it could go higher. Critics argue the amendment’s language is vague and doesn’t specify the types of projects eligible for funding.

American Crystal CEO Berg ordered to testify

• FARGO, N.D. — David Berg will have to wade into the sour legal dispute between the sugar and corn syrup industries despite his efforts to avoid testifying. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson rejected a motion by Berg, president and CEO of American Crystal Sugar, to throw out a subpoena by lawyers representing the corn syrup industry. The skirmish over Berg’s testimony is the latest in an ongoing legal tangle between the two sweetener groups over whether high-fructose corn syrup is nutritionally the same as table sugar. Corn syrup interests, that want to be able to offer “corn sugar,” contend that syrup from corn is nutritionally essentially the same as table sugar — a claim the sugar industry rejects. Corn processors include Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and the Corn Refiners Association. Berg tried to avoid testifying in the case, citing his executive schedule and contending that information he could provide could be gleaned from others. But Erickson determined that Berg, in his capacity at American Crystal Sugar and his former leadership role in The Sugar Association, a trade group, made him a relevant witness. Although American Crystal Sugar withdrew from The Sugar Association a few years ago — hoping to avoid the lawsuit — Berg was present in many meetings involving pertinent discussions. Lawyers for the corn syrup industry should be able to question Berg to explore whether he made “statements or admissions” important to the lawsuit, Erickson ruled. Berg might have been present, for example, during discussions with representatives of buyers of sugar involving statements about the impact of the Corn Refiners Association’s educational campaign and whether the sugar industry was damaged by it, Erickson wrote. “The Court finds this is an area of relevant inquiry that may lead to admissible evidence,” the judge wrote, adding the corn syrup industry’s lawyers should be able to “explore whether Berg has information relevant to the underlying claim for damages.” Berg’s lawyers are trying to arrange for his testimony to take place in Fargo-Moorhead, although the case is in U.S. District Court in California. “I just don’t really have that much to add, other than what’s in the record,” Berg says.

Briefly . . .

• Deadline extension: Signup for emergency assistance through the 2012 and 2013 livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish program, originally scheduled to end Aug. 1, has been extended to Aug. 15. The new deadline gives producers who suffered losses because of disease, adverse weather, wildlife or colony collapse disorder between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2013, another two weeks to enroll in the program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. More information: www.fsa.usda.gov.

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