Legislation to help WI businesses move goods to market

Wisconsin State Farmer
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced legislation to address challenges faced by Wisconsin businesses when shipping by rail. The Rail Shipper Fairness Act aims to reduce costs and improve service problems faced by a broad coalition of Wisconsin rail shippers, including farmers, manufacturers and utilities.

“Our Wisconsin businesses need a quality and responsive railroad system to effectively get their goods to market,” said Senator Baldwin. “In order to continue building a strong Made in Wisconsin economy that is fair to farmers, manufacturers, and consumers, we need to give these shippers a seat at the table. This legislation will address the challenges faced by local businesses and help drive our Wisconsin economy forward.”

In Wisconsin, businesses from across the state have come together as the Wisconsin Freight Rail Customer Alliance (FRCA) to support the legislation. Wisconsin FRCA members include Alliant Energy, American Chemistry Council, Chippewa Valley Bean, Consultant, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Domtar, Erco Worldwide, IBEW Local 2150, Leicht Transfer and Storage, Madison Gas & Electric, Manitowoc Grey Iron, Midwest Food Processors Association, Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin, Omnova Solutions Inc, Packaging Corporation of America, WEC Energy Group, Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, Wisconsin Cast Metals Association, Wisconsin Central Group, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Biofuels Association, Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Wisconsin Paper Council, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, Wisconsin Utilities Association and WPPI Energy.

“Our members, which hail from key state industries including agriculture, forest products and paper, metal casting, chemical, plastics, and electric power providers, rely heavily on rail, even though there are very limited rail options,” said Sarah Barry, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Freight Rail Customer Alliance. “We believe Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Rail Shipper Fairness Act is a critical step in the right direction and the Wisconsin Freight Rail Customer Alliance is very supportive of her efforts to help bring costs down for critical Wisconsin industries.”

Businesses and consumers throughout Wisconsin have endured years of subpar rail service. Grain elevators across the Midwest are full due to farmers being left without means to move their goods to market. Wisconsin’s paper industry routinely faces high rates and poor service on the railroads. Several Wisconsin power plants have had to reduce production or shutdown altogether because they can’t get fuel by rail. These shutdowns pass higher rates on to their consumers with electricity costs set to reach their highest levels since 1999. These additional costs add up to make Made In Wisconsin products less competitive internationally.

The Rail Shipper Fairness Act increases competition, reforms rate case regulations and ends unreasonable practices. The legislation will require railroads to be more responsive to their customers by honoring their contractual obligations. The legislation includes provisions to implement competitive switching, which Senator Baldwin previously called for in a bipartisan letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB). Additionally, the legislation prohibits railroads from charging customers for fuel in a way that does not correlate with actual fuel costs.

The Rail Shipper Fairness Act has also received support from national organizations and businesses. The Freight Rail Customer Alliance, which includes the National American Public Power Association, National Propane Gas Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Edison Electric, Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, Lafayette Utilities System, Lincoln Electric System, Missouri River Energy Services, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Salt River Project and Western Fuels Association has supported the legislation.

“This legislation builds upon the reforms to the Surface Transportation Board made by Congress when it reauthorized the STB in 2015,” said David Sauer, President of the Freight Rail Customer Alliance.

“Packaging Corporation of America commends Senator Baldwin for introducing the Rail Shipper Fairness Act and supporting a level playing field for rail shippers,” said Mark Kowlzan, CEO of Packaging Corporation of America.

“Senator Baldwin’s legislation offers free market solutions for increasing access to competitive freight rail service and for reducing bureaucracy at the Surface Transportation Board. The bill’s proposals have the strong support of the Rail Customer Coalition, which represents a broad cross section of manufacturing, agricultural, and energy industries with operations and employees throughout the United States,” said Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council. “We greatly appreciate Senator Baldwin’s commitment to addressing problems plaguing small and large businesses that depend on railroads to deliver reliable and affordable service, and we urge all members of Congress to help keep STB reform on track.”