Pierre, SD - October 3, 2014 -- If you can’t get it to market, you don’t get paid. Grain is piling up on the ground and prices are plummeting. It’s a simple rule that any farmer or rancher knows. Unfortunately, that’s the challenge for producers in South Dakota. As bumper crops of wheat, corn and beans come out of the fields, farmers are filled with a sense of blessing that they’ve done their job. The joyful feelings of a bountiful harvest are quickly replaced with a sense of frustration that this year’s grains are going to get piled on top of last year’s because there simply are not enough transportation options. Too many trains are tied up carrying the valuable oil from North Dakota to refineries in the south.
This predicament is a direct result of the dysfunction in Washington D.C. There is one option staring us all in the face that should have helped to alleviate the problem by now; the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s been six years since the project was proposed and due to political pressure from the president, we’re no closer to a solution than we were in 2008. If it had been approved at the appropriate time, we wouldn’t be in the same mess we’re in now.
There are all kinds of theories in debating the pipeline’s effect on the grain glut, but simple, common sense tells us that if more rail cars were available to haul grain because oil is being moved safely underground, less product will be left to rot in fields, bags, elevators and bins.
In a rare case of bipartisan collaboration, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are teaming up to find a solution. They’d like the Department of Agriculture to do an economic analysis to determine how the rail situation is truly affecting farmers and ranchers as well as the ag economy in general. I suspect such a study would prove definitively what we already know; first, that more trains would mean better delivery to market and secondly, that the best way to free up some of that rail capacity is to build the Keystone XL.
I applaud Senators Klobuchar and Thune for taking a bipartisian approach to seeking a solution. We need more of this type of common sense approach in Washington, D.C.