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Rep. Ralph Norman & Rep. Jim Costa Lead Bipartisan Effort Concerning Deficient Rail Service’s Role in Fertilizer, Grain and Feed Shortage Affecting American Farmers

Washington, D.C., June 29, 2022 | Austin Livingston (202-740-8937)
On Wednesday, Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-5) and Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) led a bipartisan letter to the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Board Members of the Surface Transportation Board concerning deficient rail service, which has incumbered critical shipments of important agricultural inputs to our nation’s farms.


Many American farms rely extensively on rail service to deliver important products to support their operations. Rail is commonly used to pre-position fertilizer ahead of busy seasons, while delivering a continuous supply of grains, feeds, and other agricultural inputs to American farms.
Unfortunately, Union Pacific and some other major U.S. railroads have reduced their capacities in response to significant service problems, which they attribute to broader supply-chain issues and widespread labor shortages. Consequently, many producers of agricultural input products have had no choice but to throttle or even shutdown production, which has imposed major delays on the delivery of these essential inputs to farms.
The implications of delayed input shipments to our nation’s farms could be detrimental. For example, one news report says a major fertilizer company believes "the limits Union Pacific is putting on rail traffic to clear up congestion will delay shipments that farmers need during the spring planting season.”
While some rail companies have recently touted ongoing efforts to improve service, it is concerning to Representatives Norman, Costa, and the other co-signers for any major railroad like Union Pacific to restrict its shipping capacity without first consulting its agricultural customers, who play a vital role in our nation’s food supply.
“At a time when global fertilizer supplies and global crop production are highly disrupted, imposing shipping curtailments on fertilizer inputs and grain, as recently proposed by Union Pacific, will cause major supply chain disruptions, hurt American farmers, and exacerbate the food crisis considerably,” wrote the bipartisan group of Members.
With over 50 co-signers, this letter reminds the Surface Transportation Board that “communication is essential when taking steps to make the necessary improvements, including the imposition of service curtailments” and to be “mindful of essential commodities and our country’s best public interest.”
Statements from Rep. Norman and Rep. Costa:
“Service restraints by rail are the last thing American farmers need,” said Rep. Norman on Wednesday. “American farms are essential to feeding our nation and the world, so adequate railway capacity must be treated as a national security issue. I want to thank Rep. Costa and the other bipartisan co-signers of this letter, and look forward to prompt attention on this important issue from American railroads and the Surface Transportation Board.”
Rep. Jim Costa added, “Rail service interruptions that delay the delivery of feed and fertilizer to American farmers are unacceptable. Food security is national security, and we must immediately get a handle on disruptions in the rail supply chain. I thank Rep. Norman and my colleagues and will continue to work with them on this critical issue to ensure farmers have the resources needed to grow and deliver food to feed our nation and the world."
Agricultural Industry Support:
This letter has the support of The Fertilizer Institute, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Grain and Feed Association, National Cotton Council, Southern Cotton Growers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Milk Producers Federation, International Fresh Produce Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, American Sugar Alliance, and the National Millers Association. The following statements were also issued on Wednesday:
“With over half of all fertilizer moving by rail carrier, the fertilizer industry is grateful for the bipartisan leadership of Congressmen Ralph Norman and Jim Costa,” said Corey Rosenbusch, President and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute. “Their dedication to working with all stakeholders will help ensure necessary crop nutrient inputs reach farmers.” Rosenbusch concluded that “fertilizer is attributable to half of all crop yields. The world will lean more on U.S. farmers than perhaps ever before, so it is imperative that crop nutrient inputs reach farmers without unreasonable delays and disruptions.”
National Cotton Council Chairman Ted Schneider, a Louisiana cotton producer, said, “the National Cotton Council appreciates the efforts of Congressmen Norman and Costa to address the problems posed by the current rail service. Transportation issues that impact supply and availability of fertilizer only exacerbate the high prices facing our producers. Given the backlog of container ships at west coast ports, reliable, consistent and affordable rail service has become even more important for America's farmers and the nation's economy.”
“Dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own continue to weather numerous supply chain difficulties due to global disruptions and lingering pandemic effects,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “With many producers struggling to obtain the feed needed to nourish their herds in a timely manner, we thank Reps. Costa, Norman, and their colleagues for seeking near-term relief from this food security crisis.”
“NGFA thanks Congressman Norman, Congressman Costa, and the dozens of Members of Congress communicating with STB to continue to highlight this very real supply chain problem,” said Michael J. Seyfert, President and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association. “Unreliable rail service continues to impact U.S. agriculture. With wheat harvest in progress and a fall harvest approaching, agricultural stakeholders want and need our partners in freight rail to be successful in delivering adequate, reliable, and resilient service. NGFA supports the bipartisan Norman-Costa letter and appreciates STB’s oversight to foster more competitive and improved rail service for agricultural shippers.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “Farm Bureau appreciates Congress continuing to keep a close eye on the transportation and supply chain challenges facing farmers and ranchers. As we gear up for harvest, we need to ensure all our transportation modes are functioning properly, especially rail and the critically important role it plays in moving our commodities. I appreciate Reps. Norman and Costa for leading this important bipartisan letter to the Surface Transportation Board.”