August 13, 2014

A drought of rail cars

By STU MERRY

There’s a drought overtaking North Dakota. It’s not a lack of moisture. Instead, it’s a shortage of rail cars.

With harvest beginning, railroad tracks that haul grain to market are more often than not, barren. It’s been that way since last year’s harvest. And it’s not expected to improve. CHS Garrison Manager Chris Gratton predicts things won’t change for 2-3 years.

Far too often, elevator managers like Gratton have been forced to play the waiting game when it comes to rail car availability. In most cases car shipments are more than four months behind – or worse. The last time a grain car was seen at CHS SunPrairie in Ryder was last fall. "We went the whole winter without rail," said manager Doug Smette.

Smette and Gratton said the cause is that grain is taking a back seat to oil. "Railroads are putting power and people to that, keeping us that far behind. It’s going to be a challenge to move this year’s crop," Gratton said.

Max Farmers Elevator Manager Rick Talbott agrees. Where once 20-25 car deliveries was the norm it’s dwindled to a trickle. "We get maybe one or two cars every now and again, but it’s pretty sparse," he said.


The Weather Network