Predictions of a second year of record grain harvests in the U.S. should seem like a cause for celebration.
But for grain farmers and grain elevator operators in states like Minnesota and the Dakotas, it's a near disastrous crisis that could continue to cost them tens of millions of dollars.
The reason: A lack of available railroad service—from rail cars to track lines—to ship the grain to market.
While there are various explanations for the difficulties—from severe weather to the enormity of the grain harvest—some suspicion lies with the increase in oil and gas rail shipments at the expense of commodities.
"In 2009, there were 11,000 rail carloads of crude oil but in 2013 there were 400,000 carloads," said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition.
"It's not all their fault and railroads say they're not favoring oil deliveries but I would like to see that argument substantiated," he said.
For their part, railroads contend they're doing all they can to improve the situation, no matter the customer.
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"There's no competition between oil and gas and grain for us," said Mike Trevino, vice president of communications at BNSF Railway, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the second-largest freight railroad network in North America.
Trevino admitted that BNSF is behind on some commodity rail deliveries but is doing all it can to catch up.
"We will have more grain shuttles this year than last year and deploy as much capacity as we can for this fall's harvest," he said.