Archived Story

Rail service slowdown forces American Crystal sugar cutback

Published 5:00pm Saturday, February 1, 2014

FARGO — A slowdown in rail service is forcing American Crystal Sugar to cut back on production, something company officials said Wednesday could cost millions if the situation doesn’t improve.

The cooperative plans to limit output at three of its five plants because it’s running out of storage space while waiting for rail cars that BNSF officials say are being hampered by a wave of blizzards and subzero weather. The plants are in East Grand Forks, Minn., and Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D.

“The extreme cold and snow have been presenting significant operating challenges for our operations,” BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said Wednesday. “We are putting a priority on serving (American Crystal) through proactive measures that will help in light of the difficult current conditions brought on by weather challenges.”

McBeth said BNSF planned to reroute some trains and add crews and locomotives.

David Berg, president and CEO of American Crystal, called the situation a “minor slowdown” at this point but said it could result in massive losses and waste if the plants are not back on schedule before it warms up.

“I don’t doubt there is weather involved. Weather makes everything work more slowly,” Berg said. “But winter weather is not a new phenomenon in the Northern Plains.”