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Ag commissioner candidate Ryan Taylor contends he has leadership to unclog N.D. rails

Ryan Taylor

Agriculture commissioner candidate Ryan Taylor contended he has the leadership to unclog North Dakota’s backlogged rails at a press conference held in Grand Forks Friday morning.

“We’re bringing in the 2014 harvest that’s going to be a bin buster by most people’s estimation, and we’re going to have grain likely piled on the ground in North Dakota,” said the Democratic candidate, a fourth-generation rancher and former state senator.

In July, millions of bushels of corn and soybeans from 2013 had still not been shipped because of a rail system overburdened by shipments of agricultural products and oil and gas.

Taylor said he did not think laying more track, adding more locomotives, and hiring more engineers would be enough.

“We have to be working at all ends of the spectrum,” he said.

Taylor pointed to companies, like pasta producer Dakota Growers Pasta, that take a raw product like wheat and make it more valuable, as part of the solution.

“In North Dakota, the agriculture commissioner has a couple of opportunities that I think are being underutilized today … when we talk about the opportunity for this value-added agriculture to alleviate some of the problems we have with rail transportation,” he said.

Taylor urged for more value-added agriculture initiatives, including more oil refining infrastructure in the state.

Incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said that value-added agriculture is nothing new.

“We’ve had a long-standing policy of doing value-added,” the Republican incumbent said in a phone interview.

Goehring would not comment on his efforts to free up North Dakotan railways, saying he is planning a press conference for next week in Fargo to discuss an alternative rail model.

Taylor said he also wants to increase safety measures on saltwater pipelines — which if ruptured, can cause lasting damage to farm ground — and bump up the required distance between drilling sites and homes from 500 feet to 1,320 feet, or a quarter mile.

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