By Randy Gordon, President and CEO
The NGFA and 26 other agricultural producer and agribusiness organizations on June 25 strongly encouraged the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to undertake a rulemaking to modernize its oversight of freight rail rates.
In a letter to each of the STB commissioners, the members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group co-chaired by NGFA and the American Farm Bureau Federation also strongly supported the agency’s work to examine commercially unfair, commercially impractical and nonreciprocal demurrage and accessorial charges and practices.
On rate reform, the agricultural organizations praised STB Chairman Ann Begeman for making reform of the agency’s current “complex, costly and unworkable methodologies” for challenging unreasonable freight rates her top priority. They noted that the “robust” report issued in April by a Begeman-created Rate Reform Task Force “provides several important and creative recommendations that warrant serious consideration and public comment…, and serve as a good starting point” for making the STB’s rate-challenge process “realistically accessible” to rail customers.
“As noted in the task force report, the freight rail marketplace has changed significantly over the past 30 years, while the (STB’s) processes for adjudicating excessive rail rates have not kept pace,” the groups said in urging the agency to initiate a rail rate reform proceeding “as soon as possible.”
The NGFA and other ag organizations also asked the STB to follow up on its “informative and illuminating” May 22-23 public hearing by developing further policies and guidance regarding the “commercial fairness, commercial practicability and reciprocity” of Class I railroads’ demurrage and accessorial practices.
“On behalf of our nation’s farmers and the agricultural industries that serve them, we commit to work with you and look forward to the (STB’s) next steps on these important issues,” the organizations concluded.