With Thursday’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as a backdrop, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) registered its support for policies that will promote greater competition between railroads and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Surface Transportation Board (STB). A letter from TFI President Chris Jahn that was delivered to committee leadership as well as the leadership of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials today, expressed support for the House action on legislation similar to the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S.808) which was recently approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“Today’s hearing is a welcome opportunity to review a variety of issues in the rail transportation marketplace,” said the letter from Jahn. “Since passage of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, the rail industry has undergone substantial changes. In 1986, there were 23 Class I rail carriers in the United States. Today, there are seven Class I rail carriers of which four control over 90 percent of the U.S. market. Rail industry consolidation and a lack of competition amongst rail carriers and from other modes of transportation have provided the rail industry with strong market power. For example, motor carriers are typically a noncompetitive and undesirable option for shippers that need to transport products over long distances, especially when it comes to hazardous materials.”

The letter from TFI also expresses support for:

  • STB action on its current proceeding, Docket No. EP 722, to update the standards for rate review process based upon revenue adequacy; and
  • STB inclusion of fertilizer in its proposed rulemaking – Docket No. EP 724 (Sub‐No. 4) – related to service reporting requirements.

Fertilizers make it possible for farmers to grow enough food to feed the world’s 7.2 billion people. Research has confirmed that 40‐60 percent of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizers nutrient input. Here in the United States, the delivery of fertilizer in a timely manner is critical to farmers. There is only a narrow window of opportunity to apply the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. If farmers do not receive their fertilizer in a timely manner, there are potential consequences for food security and the environment.

TFI’s letter to Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders concludes with a statement regarding the positive relationship between TFI and its members and the railroad industry.

“We want the rail industry to build upon its success since enactment of the Staggers Rail Act because their success is essential to our success. As a shipper, we also want the STB to be more balanced, efficient, and effective in protecting rail customers in those situations where railroads possess substantial market power. It has been 20 years since Congress authorized the STB. After 20 years, it makes sense for Congress to consider ways to modernize the agency with the ultimate goal of benefiting all stakeholders. TFI recognizes that the rail industry is working to invest in its infrastructure to meet growing demand.”