Guest Blog: Short Line Rail is a Critical Asset for Agriculture and Rural Communities

March 29, 2021

“Your gateway to the world.”

That is our motto at Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company, and as the largest short line railroad in Minnesota, we help connect our customers with markets nationally and internationally. Investment in rail infrastructure is critical to the agricultural industry and the rural economy, and we are proud to be part of that tradition.

As a member of AgriGrowth, we work with members across the agricultural and food industry on infrastructure advocacy efforts. Whether it’s investment in rail networks, modernizing our locks and dams system, or improving roads and bridges, our state’s diverse agri-food sector relies on many types of infrastructure.

When TCWR was founded in 1991, many short line railroads were operating on tracks that were more than a century old. Infrastructure investments were critical to ensure that rail could continue to transport our customers’ products to market. We were dedicated to reinvesting in our rail infrastructure, and a federal tax credit passed in 2004 (and made permanent in2020), helped us improve our rail infrastructure across the state.

Now at the state level, this session we are working to help get a similar tax credit passed in the Minnesota State Legislature. Senate File1501/House File 1720 chief authored by Senator Weber and Representative Heinrich would provide a short line railroad infrastructure modernization tax credit, helping us do even more to improve our lines if signed into law this year.

Why is investing in short line rail critical? We are an instrumental partner in rural communities’ economic prosperity and a key transporter of agricultural goods to local, national and international markets. And the easier access farmers and companies have to markets, the better price they can get for their commodities. Also, freight rail emits the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions per ton hauled over land.

Furthermore, numerous communities we serve have invested millions in elevators, technologies and new plants. Access to short line rail helps drive strategic investment and economic growth. What's more, our TCWR employees also work and live in these communities, patronizing local restaurants, hardware stores and other local businesses. When we are invested in our customers and communities, they are invested in the success of our rail line too.

When people think about the transportation of agricultural goods, rail should be top of mind. We are a key part of the food supply chain here in Minnesota and globally, and investment in rail infrastructure will ensure our state and nation can continue to be a leader in agriculture and food production and export.

- Mark Wegner is the President and CEO of Twin Cities & Western Railroad

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