PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- A federal oversight board told Canadian Pacific Railway and BNSF Railway that they have until Friday to report their plans to ensure delivery of fertilizer shipments for spring planting of U.S. crops.
The Surface Transportation Board's decision Tuesday comes in response to a hearing it held last week on recent service problems in the nation's rail network. Farmers and representatives of agriculture producers told the board that delays in fertilizer delivery could disrupt planting.
Increased crude oil and freight shipments have largely been blamed for causing the rail delays. BNSF has also said that rail service has been backlogged because of bad winter weather.
The board also ordered the railroads to provide weekly status reports on fertilizer delivery for the next six weeks, beginning April 25.
U.S. Senator John Thune of South Dakota issued a statement calling the board's decision "a step in the right direction."
"I am pleased that they acted so quickly after last week's hearing to address some of the ongoing rail service issues in South Dakota and the surrounding region," he said. "Continued rail service disruptions are not only having a direct impact on agriculture producers, grain handlers, and the ethanol industry, but also on manufacturers and main street businesses across our state."
On Monday, BNSF promised to add more trains to ensure delivery of fertilizer, according to U.S. Sen. John Hoeven.
The North Dakota Republican said BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose told him over the weekend that the railroad "will dedicate additional resources and crews to get fertilizer to North Dakota producers faster."