Agricultural Leaders of Michigan Voice Concerns Over Rail Rates, Reliability, Impact on Agriculture

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As harvest season nears for many Michigan-produced agricultural products, the Lansing-based Agricultural Leaders of Michigan (ALM), today voiced concern in regard to ongoing service issues with CSX railroad, whose corporate headquarters are in Jacksonville, Fla. Overall, the CSX transportation network includes 21,000 route miles of track in 23 states, the District of Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Rail delays and uncertainty, along with increased rail costs, are impacting farmers and agribusinesses in Michigan and throughout the nation.

“Rail service has deteriorated throughout the summer, creating headaches across the agricultural supply chain,” says Gail Frahm, executive director of the Michigan Soybean Association. “In addition, increases in cost to transport products are ultimately passed on to farmers, reducing the income those farmers receive from their crops.”

ALM praised action taken throughout the summer by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board STB) demanding additional information and results from CSX. STB sent letters pressing CSX to respond to the ongoing delays.

Several agricultural organizations also voiced their concern in a letter to Acting Chairman Begeman, Vice Chairman Elliott, and Commissioner Miller urging the STB to examine the deteriorating rail service and compensate customers for their losses over the last few months. Throughout the Midwest, Eastern, and Southeastern United States, grain elevators, feed manufacturers, livestock and poultry feeders, flour millers, bakers, edible fat and oil refiners, and fertilizer plants have been damaged by CSX’s service issues, including inconsistent transit times for essential products and yard closures leading to inefficient routes. Agricultural organizations are praising the STB’s increased oversight, and calling for additional action to hold the railroad accountable.

“The STB’s work to resolve rail delays is particularly important as we approach harvest in Michigan,” says Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Rail transportation from CSX is critical to move the crop in a timely manner, and right now, grain handlers don’t know whether they can count on trains. The financial impact could be significant if there are additional delays in rail service.”

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