The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills.

The backlog is only going to get worse, farmers said, as they prepared this week for what is expected to be a record crop of wheat and soybeans…

Although the energy boom in North Dakota has led to a 2.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, the downside has been harder times for farmers who have long been mainstays of the state’s economy. Agriculture was North Dakota’s No. 1 industry for decades, representing a quarter of its economic base, but recent statistics show that oil and gas have become the biggest contributors to the state’s gross domestic product.

Railroads have long been the backbone of North Dakota’s transportation system and the most dependable way for farmers to move crops — to ports in Portland, Ore., Seattle and Vancouver, from which the bulk of the grain is shipped across the Pacific to Asia; and to East Coast ports like Albany, from which it is shipped to Europe.

But reports the railroads filed with the federal government show that for the week that ended Aug. 22, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway — North Dakota’s largest railroad…had a backlog of 1,336 rail cars waiting to ship grain and other products. Another railroad, Canadian Pacific, had a backlog of nearly 1,000 cars.

For farmers, the delays often mean canceled orders from food giants that cannot wait weeks or months for the grain they need to make cereal, bread and an array of other products. “They need to get this problem fixed,” Mr. Hejl said. “I’m losing money, and my customers are turning to other sources as a result. I don’t know how much longer we can survive like this.”

This month, federal Agriculture Department officials said they were particularly concerned that Canadian Pacific would not be able to fulfill nearly 30,000 requests from farmers and others for rail cars before October. As a result, North Dakota’s congressional delegation and lawmakers in Minnesota and South Dakota have called on the Surface Transportation Board, which oversees the nation’s railroads, to step up pressure on the companies.

Farmers and agriculture groups say rail operators are clearly favoring the more lucrative transport of oil. Rail shipments of crude oil in North Dakota have surged since 2008, and the state now produces about a million barrels a day. About 60 percent of that oil travels by train from the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state to faraway oil refiners…

If you had to choose which is more important in your life, which is it? Grain for domestic consumption and export – or oil for domestic consumption and export?

Thanks, Mike

  1. bobbo, we all except for those who don't, think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    Gee, if they can’t schedule and honor their long term commitment contracts, maybe they should switch to net neutrality?

    Spidey tells me there is more unsaid here than revealed…..maybe if not outright lies, some manufactured exaggeration for some other purpose?

    Hmmmmmmmm……. drone delivery for baked goods?

  2. Marc Pugner says:

    This reminds me of the former Soviet Union in the years immediately after the fall of communism begging for humanitarian aid to feed its people. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t have the food, the problem was that they had silos full of rotting potatoes because they couldn’t distribute them.

  3. gracie says:

    One group of Republicans screwing another group of Republicans. Moneybags at 10 paces.

    • Shark Tank is Good says:

      Meanwhile, what are Democrats hard at work doing?

      Oh yeah… finding ways to tax the energy out of working risk takers to buy votes from non-working free loaders.

      Say goodnight, Gracie.

    • dade0 says:

      YaY! US Party loyalists! A few more like you guys and we can have a proper civil war sooner than later.


      • Shark Tank is Good says:

        You’ve got to let the Democrats know their wrong.

        They’ve been blinded by the horns of the unicorn fairies that believe money grows on trees.

  4. Pardot Kynes says:

    Wow! That is a nice duct — is it an Arrakis Sand Trout {little maker} tank?

  5. g says:

    Reading the title led me directly to think about Atlas Shrugged ….

  6. NewFormatSux says:

    Of course liberals like to highlight something wrong with oil production, because their religion is against it.

    Perhaps they should build more pipelines to get the oil out, rather than take hundreds of millions from an ‘environmentalist’ who is invested in another pipeline.

    And Warren Buffett makes money off train shipments of oil.

  7. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and student of Real Politik says:

    There “should be” an interesting story beneath this all: who gets RR Carriage and who doesn’t and “exactly why.” I have the image of the food riots in Mexico of a few years ago caused by USA investment in Corn based ethanol raising the cost of tacos to Pedro.

    So…yes…who’s ox gets gored? What should control: market or regulation…all to who is harmed and who benefits. Too contentious I suppose……but ……… basically ………aren’t trains almost “unlimited” in what they can haul and the issue is the types of cars that are available? Grain and Oil being mutually exclusive?

    IDK==just had a Marklin set as a kiddie. Hmmmmm….didn’t Russia prohibit import of USA wheat last week or so in retaliation for Obama doing nothing? Maybe BIG WHEAT simply lost its customer?

    We’ll never know…….but everything IS connected.

    • jpfitz says:

      I’m thinking the same regarding Putin given a time out, no corn for you Russia.

      On another note why not put the corn or oil into mobile oil burning trucks. We have highways in ND, why not fill the roads with truckers, the out of work truckers make out and we get to burn more fuel, everybody wins, even the meth and speed dealers win.

  8. Rub Me! says:

    Wrong question!

    In case you didn’t notice, there’s supposed to be something called the “Keystone pipeline” that a lot of oil companies want built which, if built, won’t be too far away.

    So the longer the oil companies have to wait on Washington (and voters) to approve this pipeline the more economic damage it will create when they “have to” divert grain shipments in favor of oil. So it really sounds to me like this is simply a political move to get that pipeline built.

    • bobbo, the Climate Change ALARMIST who doesn't want his kiddies boiled to death as the Oilgarchs are currently Hell Bent on doing, and the Science Denying Far Right are ignorantly supporting says:

      I don’t think its going to be built. The science is against it and Obama knows it.

      He’s in an ill temper as a lame duck and not playing to the public as he did first terms.

      He’s fed up and going to act in the best LONG TERM interests of USA, instead of the short term political interests of the great majority.

      Fingers crossed: 70% of the known carbon resources HAVE TO BE KEPT IT THE GROUND—or we are all going to die. It only makes sense to dig up the cleanest of such pollutants, rather than the dirtiest of them all.

      Ha, ha……it would be fun to see this play out across the worlds geo-political interests. It ain’t going to be pretty.

      • Tim says:

        “”going to act in the best LONG TERM interests of USA

        You don’t really believe that way, do you??

        I mean, damn, nigga!

      • Tim says:

        I’d agree that mining needs to be done without destroying whole mountains… fill them with expanding foam, maybe??

        But, by dirty, you mean CO2, don’t you?? My head still hurts weather a new 1.28 gallon toilet or an old five-gallon one with a biofilm all inside it…

        (1.) CO2 is not a pollutant.
        (2.) stop shitting in your water no matter the volume — lower volumes equal higher velocity which just atomizes everything so some of it is on your toothbrush — which is why you need more floride to not notice illness everytime you prepare for a stay-over bible-study.

        • jpfitz says:

          Here is one solution to atomized feces attaching to your tooth brush, close the lid before flushing, no more mercy flushing.

      • DSM-5 says:

        Obsama’s out to lunch, dude.

      • Albert Einstein says:

        “going to act in the best LONG TERM interests of USA”

        A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of the truth.

  9. NewFormatSux says:

    The proposed Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t pass thru North Dakota. There is an existing Keystone pipeline that goes horizontally in Canada then south thru North Dakota.

  10. jimbo says:

    Back in the ’60’s, N.D. farmers were getting squeezed by the trains, the train companies said “they didn’t have enough cars” so they’d jack up the price of transporting the grain, and all the while the local ag magazines would have photos snapped by farmers showing scores of unused boxcars sitting on unused spurs of track.


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