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Ag, rail officials talk delays with regulators

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm •  Published: April 28, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Crude oil trains are not displacing grain shipments in the Dakotas and surrounding states, railroad officials assured North Dakota regulators Monday.

Many farmers and some state officials believe the increased crude oil and freight shipments from North Dakota's booming oil patch were largely the cause of shipping delays, which have created big backlogs at grain elevators and added costs for agriculture shippers.

But BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway officials told the North Dakota Public Service Commission during a meeting with representative from agriculture and transportation groups that brutal winter weather and bottlenecks in Chicago are to blame.

"It's hard to explain just how bad weather affects a rail system," said Brian Sweeney, a BNSF vice president.

Commissioner Randy Christmann told railroad officials that regulators have been "bombarded" by farm groups to push the railroad to improve its service in North Dakota.

"People are expecting us to solve this problem," Christmann said of the commission, which regulates coal mining, land reclamation, pipelines, electric and gas utilities, grain elevators, telecommunications and auctioneers. "There is a perception that oil traffic is displacing ag traffic and that's causing an enormous amount of loses for producers."

Grain bins across the state are full and harvests from prior years are being stored on the ground, North Dakota Grain Growers Association executive director Dan Wogsland said, noting Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota are having similar problems.

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