SIOUX FALLS — U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-SD,  and some of the state's agriculture leaders hope new national legislation will improve rail service in the state after backlogs the past year forced farmers and grain elevators to wait before sending their crops to market.

Thune and leaders from the state's soybean, wheat and corn growers associations met Friday in Sioux Falls to discuss rail transportation.

Two years of record and near-record harvests in South Dakota and other states coupled with the increase in North Dakota oil production helped create shortages of rail cars, delayed service and high shipping costs.

"We rely so heavily out here on railroads to get our commodities to the marketplace that we just flat have to have a very sound, good, reliable, affordable form of transportation," Thune said.

That's why the senior Republican senator hopes his Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization bill, introduced in March, could alleviate some of the backlogs.

He says the legislation would give the Surface Transportation Board more authority to investigate when there are issues like the ones producers saw this fall.

Lisa Richardson, the executive director for South Dakota Corn Growers Association, said the bill and Thune's negotiation with railroads are what's going to allow the state's agriculture industry to flourish.

Thune's bill has been passed by the Commerce Committee and is headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

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