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Agriculture, Wyoming products contribute to the success of BNSF business

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Jackson – “The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is 160 years old and the largest railroad in North America by volume,” stated Brett Porter of BNSF in an Oct. 8 company update presented in Jackson at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority’s fall meeting.

With 32,000 route-miles and 8,000 locomotives, BNSF serves 28 states and three Canadian provinces.

“We serve 40 ports, so we have very good access to international markets, and we have invested $52 billion since 2000 in our infrastructure,” Porter added.

Inside Wyoming

In Wyoming, BNSF employs nearly 1,400 people with a payroll of $108 million.

“We are pivotal to the Wyoming economy, and Wyoming is very important to us. We also see a significant investment around rail from our customers. They have spent around $200 million since 2012 on construction jobs and jobs downstream,” he explained.

The top moving product in the state is coal, with 1.7 million carloads shipped last year. Approximately 42,000 carloads carried industrial cargo, including crude oil.

“BNSF is the largest mover of coal in the United States,” remarked Porter, stating that the company shipped nearly 270 million tons last year.

“We moved about 62 percent of the Powder River Basin Coal that was shipped,” he added.

Overall, about 22 percent of BNSF business is related to the shipment of coal.

“It’s a core part of our business. About one in 10 homes are powered by BNSF with Powder River Basin coal,” stated Porter.

Other products

Industrial products are also a large component of BNSF’s business, including building products, tank cars, refrigerated products, steel cars and crude oil.

“We have seven crude facilities in Wyoming,” noted Porter.

Agriculture represents a smaller portion of the company’s business, but it continues to grow.

The agricultural sector of BNSF includes fertilizer, grain, ethanol and other agricultural products, contributing to approximately 10 percent of the company’s business.

“We move enough fertilizer to fertilize a field the size of Kansas every year, and we move enough grain to feed 900 million people for all of their bread requirements for the year,” Porter said.

“We are blessed by our franchise, and we are blessed that the American farmer continues to become more and more productive each year,” he remarked.


As yields increase, so do the number of carloads transported by rail.

“The Pacific Basin consumer continues to want more protein. As their standard of living goes up, we see big growth in ag,” Porter continued.

Overall, BNSF business remained relatively flat throughout the first half of 2015, with the largest percentage of shipments pertaining to consumer products.

Porter predicted that consumer products will continue to increase, stating, “The average over-the-road truck driver is now 57 years old, and there are more regulatory challenges for truckers. The trucking companies are reaching out to us, and our industry only has about 15 percent of that business.”

Porter noted that the company continues to invest in improvements and infrastructure, quoting $1.4 billion a year devoted to new locomotives and equipment.

“We also spend $1.5 billion on expansion and efficiency,” he said.

BNSF invests $3 billion every year to maintain current rail and equipment, as well.

“We are committed to growing our business,” remarked Porter.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at

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