Letter by Mike McFadden: Franken asleep at the switch

The recent National Surface Transportation Board hearing in Fargo regarding the ongoing railcar shortage highlighted two things: 1) The railcar shortage is costing our farmers millions of dollars and, 2) Sen. Al Franken’s, D-Minn., engagement is limited to meetings and letters rather than the development of real solutions.

Our farmers, local elevators and agricultural cooperatives are very concerned that the 2013 crop will not be moved prior to the fall harvest due to a lack of railcars. I agree that the Canadian Pacific and the BNSF railroads must do everything within their power to fulfill agreements in a timely and cost-effective manner so that last year’s crop can be moved to market. However, much more needs to be done to address the railcar shortage issue in the long-term.

Unfortunately, Franken has been asleep at the switch when it comes to actually working toward a viable solution. The railcar shortage issue is, in large part, an energy infrastructure issue. The shortage of pipelines has forced oil from North Dakota onto the rails. This has resulted in distribution bottlenecks because there are now not enough railcars available to carry farmers’ crops to market.

It is unclear to me how  Franken can tout his support for agriculture yet not be supportive of enhancing our energy infrastructure. How can we grow our agricultural sector if our farmers can’t transport their products because of rail shortages?

The reality is that Franken has been a willing partner in stifling growth and opportunity due to his energy policy. Time and time again, he has voted against energy infrastructure projects, including the Keystone XL pipeline. If he is serious about keeping Minnesota competitive in the global marketplace, he should have been proactive in finding infrastructure solutions.

Franken’s news releases claiming that he has been fighting to fix the “especially poor rail service” ring hollow when farmers are wondering what to do with this year’s projected record crop. They cannot afford empty promises when they are preparing for harvest.

We should be supporting our agricultural sector and our rural communities with tangible actions, not endless meetings. We need certainty so our farmers and local elevators can continue to thrive rather than confront transportation bottlenecks that are not of their making.

All the letters and news releases in the world won’t move one bushel of corn or soybeans, deliver one ounce of fertilizer for spring planting, or lower the cost of energy. The railcar shortage points to a larger problem with our nation’s energy policy.

Not only has Franken been invisible on the railcar issue, he has actually played a pivotal role in creating the problems that have led to the distribution bottleneck now facing Minnesota’s farmers. It’s time for a change. Minnesota deserves a senator who will go to Washington to solve problems, not create them. We can do better, and it starts with better leadership in Washington.

McFadden is Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota.

Article originally posted at: http://www.inforum.com/content/letter-franken-asleep-switch

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