By Mike Moen, Prairie News Service
North Dakota farmers this week are getting something they’d been wanting for years: an intermodal rail service.
This transportation project is viewed as a game-changer at a time when many producers are struggling. Gov. Doug Burgum announced that Minot will receive the train unit, which can help to move shipping containers internationally.
While agriculture won’t be the only industry using it, North Dakota Farmers Union president Mark Watne said his members will benefit greatly from the service. He said they finally have an in-state option to distribute their products meant for international markets.
“A lot of times,” he said, “we ship it all the way down to Minneapolis on a truck, to be put back on the train to go the West Coast, to be shipped out.”
The North Dakota Department of Commerce has estimated the new service will reduce farmers’ shipping costs by 15% to 25%. Those savings are much needed, since producers across the state still are reeling from last year’s wet weather and the impacts of the U.S./China trade war.
Watne said they’re also still fighting for farmers when it comes to large corporations having a heavy influence on today’s market, squeezing out smaller operations.
“We really need more markets, we need greater demand,” he said, “and then we need a less concentrated, monopolistic system in the people that buy and sell product to us.”
The Farmers Union was among the financial contributors to the rail project, which had been pursued by state leaders for 20 years. The new facility will be operated by BNSF Railway.
The governor’s announcement is online at governor.nd.gov.