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Reps. Sawatzky and Falk engage in discussion on rail congestion

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

St. Paul, MN – Today, state Representative Mary Sawatzky (DFL – Willmar) participated in a joint hearing of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance and Commerce Committees and the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Policy, Commerce, and Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committees to discuss rail congestion and its economic impact on Minnesota.

With North Dakota oil shipments dominating Minnesota’s rail lines, the state’s farmers and consumers are paying the price. Farmers struggle to get product to market, and, when they do, rail costs are over 500% higher than a year ago. These massive cost increases get passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for everything from bread and cereal, to pizza, pasta and beer, and possibly the propane needed to heat their homes this winter. Some Minnesota farmers are concerned that shipments of grain, corn, and soybeans could end up rotting in their grain bins. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson reported state farmers lost $109 million between March and May because of clogged rail lines.

The committee members heard from the MnDOT Rail Office, Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Farmer’s Union, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, AMTRAK, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Minnesota Power, Minnesota Propane Association, Northern Star Coop., U.S. Steel, Minnesota Regional Railroad Association, BNSF, Canadian Pacific, Union Pacific, and Canadian National.

“This is a growing issue with the potential to negatively impact every corner of our state,” said Rep. Sawatzky. “The purpose of this hearing was to learn more about why this is happening, what is already being done to alleviate the problem, and what we can do in state government to address the issue. I will continue to work with members on both sides to find solutions.”

State Rep. Andrew Falk, a farmer from Murdock, was reached while harvesting his soybean crop. He was in St. Paul earlier in the month to discuss the negative effects that increased rail traffic has had on access to propane for rural residents and farmers. He raised concerns about farmer’s ability to counteract the pressure of oil traffic on rail lines.

“We’ve got a good crop coming in, and moving that crop to market is going to be a challenge,” said Rep. Falk. “We’re caught in a unique set of circumstances right now with growing grain shipments and accelerating oil traffic from North Dakota. I’ve been communicating regularly with Commissioner Fredrickson about fixing this problem and addressing it in way that puts farmers in a strong position to be successful and profitable against the powerful forces that big oil can bring to bear.”

Rep. Sawatzky encourages constituents to contact her with any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas. Rep. Sawatzky can be reached by phone at 651-296-6206 or by email at

Rep. Falk encourages constituents to contact him with any questions, comments, or concerns. Rep. Falk can be reached by email at or by phone at 651-296-4228.