Following Rice Industry Complaints, U.S. Surface Transportation Board Moves to Improve Rail Delays

Train with US flag in front of  Red Top Rice Growers Mill, M. Sligar photo
Grain train chugging along (photo by Matthew Sligar)
May 09, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC – Last Friday, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) took major steps to address ever-growing rail service delays, beginning with issuance of an order to the four major rail carriers requiring regular reporting and plans for service recovery.

The four carriers – BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation, and Union Pacific Railroad Company – will be required to submit plans to the STB on how they will step-up service for rail shippers, as well as submit biweekly progress reports on improvements.

Along with many other commodities reliant on rail transportation, the U.S. rice industry has been hit directly by the ongoing issues with rail carriers, including service backlogs, lack of and/or marginal equipment, and labor shortages.  Rice processors and marketers are dependent on keeping rice and rice by-products flowing throughout the supply chain and to end users.  Some facilities have been forced into temporary shutdowns due to backups in their warehouses and other related logistical issues.

"We think that the STB’s hearing last month and collection of feedback from the industry was critical to getting the response we saw last week.  USA Rice appreciates that the STB is holding these rail carriers accountable and taking a positive first step to rectify what has become an unworkable system," said Keith Glover, an Arkansas rice miller and chair of the USA Rice Millers' Association.  "As an industry dependent on rail and roiled by a number of other challenges right now, we hope this sets the stage for continued improvements that could provide some relief moving forward."

USA Rice submitted comments to the STB last month outlining the negative impacts of these rail issues on the U.S. rice industry and requesting assistance in holding the major rail carriers accountable.