April 16 U.S. officials ordered BNSF Railway Co
and Canadian Pacific Railway Co to report by
Friday their plans to ensure timely fertilizer deliveries to the
U.S. Farm Belt ahead of the spring planting season.
The U.S. Surface Transportation Board decision filed late on
Tuesday follows a hearing in Washington last week where U.S.
agriculture leaders reported that rail service problems have
stalled grain shipments and threatened to deprive farmers of the
rail-delivered fertilizers they need this spring.
Railroads have blamed uncommonly harsh winter weather and
heavy demand for shipping crude oil by rail for the shipping
woes, but say that service is improving with warmer weather.
The rail-dispute arbiter also asked BNSF and CP to provide
it with detailed weekly status reports about fertilizer
shipments for six weeks beginning April 25, including the number
of cars shipped or received at agricultural destinations and
data on actual performance compared with trip plans.
BNSF said it would submit its plans as requested. The
railroad announced this week that it had assigned more
locomotives and train crews to expedite fertilizer deliveries.
"We understand the shortness of the season and the necessity
of timely delivery in order to safeguard that producers can get
this year's crops planted with the proper plant nutrients," the
railroad said in a statement.
CP did not have an immediate comment about the ruling.
BNSF, a unit of investor Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway
Inc, is one of the largest U.S. railroads and is
concentrated largely in the western United States. CP's network
stretches across Canada and into the northern U.S. Midwest and
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)