News Releases

Murray Works to Improve Rail Service for Potato Farmers, Businesses

May 01 2002

Senator convenes meeting between Washington State Potato Commission and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad to discuss transportation issues

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Today, Senator Patty Murray convened a meeting in Washington, D.C. between representatives of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad, the Washington State Potato Commission, the Northwest Perishable Shippers Cooperative Association, and two of Washington state's largest fresh potato packers, Scone and Connors and Tatoes Country Sales.

Murray organized the meeting after hearing concerns from the potato industry that current rail transportation service in central and eastern Washington is not adequately serving the potato industry's needs.

During a February 28 meeting with Murray, the Washington State Potato Commission raised four specific issues, including transit time consistency, empty car ordering and spotting, demurrage charges, and loss and damage rules. Murray offered to work with the potato commission, and in early March, at her urging, Murray received a commitment from BNSF to develop solutions.

Today's meeting met its goal of improving communication between the two parties and laying the groundwork for future solutions.

"An effective transportation system is critical to Washington State's businesses, farmers, and quality of life," said Murray. "Improving rail transportation service is critical to economic development and business retention. My goal today was to jumpstart the process for improving rail service."

Murray continued, "the parties had a very constructive discussion today, one that I hope will produce real results down the road. I want to thank all the participants for their time and commitment."

At the end of today's meeting, BNSF and the potato industry agreed to cooperatively explore several options, including designing a better system for delivering railcars on demand and creating a non-BNSF pool of railcars that could serve perishable commodities.