No shortages of grain cars expected for N.D. farmers
FARGO—North Dakota's wheat, barley and soybean growers don't anticipate railroad grain car shortages as the harvest kicks in starting in July and August and runs into fall.
"There aren't any car shortages and we've not not heard of any hiccups in the system," said Dan Wogsland, executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, which represents wheat and barley producers.
"I anticipate that will continue. Some of the buildouts that BNSF has done in terms of capital improvements, coupled with their purchases of engines and things like that, I anticipate that even though we've got a big crop coming ... I anticipate that crop will flow smoothly throughout the marketing year," Wogsland said.
The state's soybean growers get into their harvest in October.
"As of now, the discussions we've had with BNSF ... the cars are available and they have over the last few years added a lot of locomotives to their fleet that are available in North Dakota," said Nancy Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association.
"We see no reason for concern at this moment," she said.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe had no orders 11-plus days past due. Between April 21 and June 29, Canadian Pacific had 442 orders 11-plus days past due the week of May 6-12, but that dropped to zero the last two weeks of June, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board reported.
In that same period, BNSF's orders up to 10 days past due had been at 24 in the week of May 5-11, spiking at 721 for June 16-22, then slipping back to 498 orders June 23-29. The CP's most recent low for orders up to 10 days past due was 51 in the week of June 6-16. For the week of June 24-30, they were at 103.
"It seems like things are moving pretty smoothly," Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. said Thursday, July 5. "We've had literally no calls from shippers and grain dealers sounding any alarms at this point."
Cramer said BNSF made "an incredible investment" in rail infrastructure during the oil boom.
"The only thing that could overwhelm them is high supply and a high price" creating a rush to move product quickly, Cramer said.
As recently as 2014, grain car delays for BNSF and Canadian Pacific railways, which handle the bulk of freight train traffic for the Northern Plains, were a bugaboo for the state's farmers.
But with fewer trains moving oil since the 2015 Oil Bust, plus improvements in rail infrastructure, bottlenecks have eased.
BNSF has invested $1.4 billion in infrastructure improvements in North Dakota in the last five years, including building nearly 100 miles of double track west of Minot, and more sidings and extended sidings statewide, company spokeswoman Amy McBeth said Friday, July 6.
BNSF will spend another $60 million in our infrastructure in North Dakota this year, and is taking more grain car deliveries this summer, she said.
"We always evaluate how to best allocate our resources and we'll continue to do that as we move into harvest. That includes positioning cars and locomotives to best meet our customers' freight demands," McBeth said.