Presidents of North Dakota and South Dakota Farmers Union met this week with members of the Surface Transportation Board in Washington, D.C., to discuss increased rail shipping costs on farm commodities.

“Rail transportation is becoming a large expense for farm operations, and farmers have no tools to pass this expense on,” said NDFU President Mark Watne. “We met with the Surface Transportation Board to get oversight on the monopolistic practices the rail industry is using, now that we only have four major rail companies in the U.S.”

Farmers Union leaders also met with administration officials from the Risk Management Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Environmental Protection Agency, along with congressional leaders.

South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke said the group advocated for agencies to consider adopting IMSET, an Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool, to use alongside crop insurance. The tool incentivizes soil health building and was developed by South Dakota farmer Craig Blindert, who also is a crop insurance agent.

Tested by North Dakota State University economics professors, the tool is a farmer-led solution to poor markets, according to Sombke. “The feedback we received was positive,” he said. “Those we spoke with appreciated our outside-the-box thinking.”