On The Farm: Oil Boom Creates Farming Challenges - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

On The Farm: Oil Boom Creates Farming Challenges

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The oil boom has put North Dakota at the top of the nation when it comes to economic growth, but it's also created challenges for other industries important to the state.

North Dakota produces close to 1 million barrels of crude oil per day, and roughly 72 percent of that fuel moves on the tracks.  It's a great accomplishment, but the rail usage is having a big impact on the ag industry. 

"I have 2,500 cars on order through April, through the end of this month. About 18,030  of them are late at this point," says Brad Haugerberg the general manager of CHS in Minot. 

Haugerberg has been in the agriculture industry for nearly 40 years.  He's never seen the delays and backlogs with BNSF and Canadian Pacific that are happening right now.

"We're also sitting on millions and millions of dollars of grain trying to make it to market, but at the producer level as well.  They need to turn some of their inventory into cash to buy seed and crop nutrients to get this crop in the ground."

It's a two sided problem. Train delays are causing commodities to back up at elevators.  Farmers have nowhere to bring their crops, but it's also caused a shortage in the delivery of fertilizer and other crop nutrients.

"We've got customers calling everyday wanting to buy product, it's hard to turn customers away, but we don't know if we can get it," says Haugerberg.

But rail companies are trying to correct the problem. BNSF has committed to assigning unit trains with locomotives so ag cars won't need to be uncoupled then re-attached. They will dedicate more crew members to the ag sector, and will work with customers to load and unload more quickly.

"It finally got so bad that it prompted some hearings, and we're happy our Congressional delegation got involved and prompted some of that," says Haugerberg.

Efforts are being made to correct the problem, but as Haugerberg acknowledges, changes won't be seen over-night.

"This industry does get taken for granted. We plug along, and do our thing. We don't bang our own drum very often, but it is an important piece to this area," says Haugerberg.

North Dakota producers and elevators will get some answers to their frustrations and questions April 18, when the U.S. Surface Transportation Board gave rail companies like BNSF and Canadian Pacific to come forward with their plans to improve deliveries of fertilizer and other agricultural goods.

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