Oil traffic may delay U.S. fertilizer shipments, farmers warn

Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:19pm EDT
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WASHINGTON, April 14 (Reuters) - Increasing use of railroads to ship crude oil could disrupt fertilizer cargo this spring as Midwest farmers prepare for planting, U.S. agriculture leaders warn, even as one railroad said on Monday it will take steps to ensure timely deliveries.

The planting season is nearly at hand in states such as the Dakotas and Minnesota, where soybean, wheat and corn growers will lay millions of tonnes of fertilizers like nitrogen and potash that mostly arrive by train.

Those supplies are not stockpiled near the fields and the farmers rely instead on steady deliveries by rail.

"Since we don't store fertilizer, the next very few weeks are incredibly important for South Dakota farmers," said state Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch.

But fertilizer cargo is being waylaid as railroads are clogged by trains carrying crude and other freight and that could ultimately jeopardize the fall crop, farmers have warned lawmakers and other officials.

"If rails are too congested for fertilizer in the weeks ahead, the problem will solve itself because there won't be anything to harvest in the fall," said Dave Andresen of Full Circle Ag, a farm services company in South Dakota.

BNSF Railway Co said on Monday it had assigned more locomotives and train crews to expedite fertilizer deliveries so nutrients can arrive at delivery points on time.

"We understand the shortness of the season and the necessity of timely delivery," the rail operator said in a notice to farm customers.

CHS Inc, a top farm supplier in the Upper Midwest, expects to help meet near-term demand for nutrients but is concerned supplies could dwindle a little later in the growing season.   Continued...