A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to spend time at the State Fair. As I was talking with fairgoers, checking out the displays and enjoying a treat from the Dakota Flavor Market Place, I was reminded again of the importance of agriculture as the foundation of South Dakota’s economy.
In part, the success of South Dakota’s agricultural development is owed to the industry’s ability to ship products to and from South Dakota via rail. Rail service allows South Dakota products to enter regional and global markets. When our products are shipped by rail, it saves money for producers and consumers. In order to keep the price of our products competitive, the shipping costs need to be competitive as well.
One important rail line in South Dakota is the old DM&E line, now owned by the Canadian Pacific. The line runs through many South Dakota cities and towns including Belle Fourche, Sturgis, Rapid City, Wall, Phillip, Midland, Pierre, Onida, Aberdeen, Huron, Watertown and Brookings. Around 80 to 90 million bushels of grain are shipped each year across the state on the Canadian Pacific rail line.
When the Canadian Pacific purchased the line from the DM&E in 2008, it promised more efficient service, more competitive shipping options and the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the line. At the time, the people of South Dakota relied upon these promises and supported the acquisition.
Last December, the Canadian Pacific Railway announced that it may sell the portion of the DM&E line that runs from Tracy, Minnesota to Colony, Wyoming, including the entire line in South Dakota. When I learned of CP’s intentions to sell the line, I reached out to the company’s president to verify that the company had kept its initial promises for investment in improvements. Unfortunately, my request went largely unanswered. Consequently, I felt compelled to file a petition, on behalf of South Dakota, with the federal Surface Transportation Board, asking these same questions.
This week I am traveling to Washington, D.C. to encourage federal officials to get to the bottom of this. South Dakotans deserve to know whether CP kept its promises. This line is too important to the farmers and ranchers – and to all people in our state – for these questions to go unanswered.
Dennis Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota.