Chairman Thune has developed a reputation for providing thoughtful leadership on an array of Congressional issues.  So when the nation’s freight rail laws were in desperate need of modernization, he worked with farmers, agricultural businesses, other shippers, and freight railroads to craft sensible reforms that would make the Surface Transportation Board work better.

He delivered by introducing the STB Reauthorization Act, legislation that pushes the STB to finally address long standing issues, including making it easier and quicker to pursue remedies for unreasonable rates and poor service. Thanks to Thune’s leadership, the legislation won unanimous support in the Senate and the House and was signed into law last year.

The American Farm Bureau is pleased to join with the other agricultural, energy and manufacturing groups in the Rail Customer Coalition to present Chairman Thune with the Murdo MacKenzie Leadership Award in recognition of his significant achievement. The award is named after one of the earliest shipper advocates who had a hand in passing legislation that helped rail customers, the Hepburn Act of 1906.

Two years later, the town of Murdo, South Dakota, was founded in honor of MacKenzie and his accomplishments. While small in size (just under 500 people), the town knows how to turn out strong leaders; Murdo also has the distinction of being Chairman Thune’s hometown.

We witnessed that strength from Senator Thune and his staff as they worked tirelessly to attract the bipartisan support we needed to overcome past obstacles and get the STB Reauthorization Act over the finish line.  The new law is the most significant piece of freight rail legislation to pass Congress since the Staggers Rail Act more than 30 years ago.

We are thankful to the town of Murdo for sending us Chairman Thune, and we are glad that he chose to build on Murdo’s legacy.

The passage of the STB Reauthorization Act, like Murdo’s efforts almost a century ago, marks another significant milestone in moving our nation’s freight rail system forward. Of course, there is still more work to do and we are grateful that Chairman Thune continues to stay engaged and advance reforms at the Surface Transportation Board.

This guest blog post is by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation.