- Associated Press - Saturday, April 11, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - U.S. Sen. John Thune and some of the state’s agriculture leaders hope new legislation will help to keep rail service in the state on track after a backlog last fall forced farmers to wait before taking their product to market.

Thune and leaders from the state’s soybean, wheat and corn growers associations met Friday in Sioux Falls to discuss issues with rail transportation in South Dakota.

Two years of record harvests in South Dakota coupled with the increase in North Dakota oil production in part led to a lack of rail cars and high shipping costs.

“We rely so heavily out here on railroads to get our commodities to the marketplace that we just flat have to have a very sound, good, reliable, affordable form of transportation,” Thune said.

That’s why the senior Republican senator hopes his Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization bill, which was introduced in March, could alleviate some issues in the future.

He says the legislation would give the Surface Transportation Board more authority to investigate when there are issues like the ones producers saw this fall.

Lisa Richardson, the executive director for South Dakota Corn Growers Association, said the bill and Thune’s negotiation with railroads are what’s going to allow the state’s agriculture industry to flourish.

Thune’s bill has been passed by the Commerce Committee and is headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

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