The South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) presented Kevin Schieffer CEO of the DM&E Railroad, with the Most Valuable Player in Agriculture Award at their 22nd Annual Meeting Jan. 5 for the tremendous impacts he has made in the industry over the past two decades.
The MVP in Agriculture Award recognizes an individual or organization, which has helped achieve common goals and create milestones and advancement in the agricultural industry.
The access to safe affordable transportation is what makes the United States agriculture competitive on a world market and thanks to Kevin Schieffer, South Dakota corn producers have competition to move their product on two Class I Railroads in South Dakota.
In 1985 the CN&W began proceedings to abandon the rail that ran right through the heart of South Dakota. Schieffer, who as a legislative staffer for Senator Pressler, helped blocked the abandonment through regulatory and legislative maneuvers. Schieffer advised Pressler to convince the CNW to put the line up for sale, which led to the creation of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad in September of 1986.
In the first year of operation, 130 DM&E employees operated on less than 1,000 miles of track and loaded 40,000 carloads. Under Schieffer’s leadership and with the hard work of the employees, the DM&E grew to the largest Class II railroad in the nation, with over 1,000 employees and 2,500 miles of track in eight states, loading over 280,000 carloads of freight.
This incredible growth is due in no small part to the leadership of its President & CEO, Schieffer, who continued DM&E’s commitment to customer focus.
With rail as the only viable source of transporting ethanol from the new production plants rising up in the Midwestern prairie, DM&E embraced the opportunity and has increased the volumes of ethanol transported. Just as the ethanol industry has grown, so too has DM&E’s business in hauling ethanol. In 2000, DM&E transported 4.5 million gallons of ethanol in 150 carloads. In 2007, the company hauled more than 500 million gallons in almost 17,000 carloads.
Today, seven ethanol plants are in production on DM&E’s lines. Another five are under construction and several more have been announced.
On September 5, 2007, 21 years after DM&E’s first train rolled down the tracks, Schieffer announced the next move for DM&E. It merged with the Canadian Pacific Railway. This move gives South Dakota and our agricultural industry greater access to the Northeast and Pacific Northwest and the grand daddy of it all – competition.
Schieffer too has pressed to expand and upgrade the DM&E. In this effort, he has persevered through multiple challenges and adversity in the eight-year regulatory approval process that included two legal challenges before the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals. And throughout this process, Schieffer insisted it was not the adversaries that “keep me up at night. It is the farmers, communities, supporters counting on this project to get done.”
The SDCGA applauds Schieffer for having the tenacity and commitment to have given agriculture and the entire State of South Dakota unlimited opportunities. His vision of what the DM&E could and has become is what will move over a billion gallons of ethanol and millions of bushels of crops. Shieffer’s actions have given the next generation of agriculture tremendous opportunity.
Schieffer’s ties to production agriculture are more than professional; they are personal in several senses. He was raised on a farm near Crofton, Neb, and he still has family members involved in the industry. He understands the fundamental value of production agriculture to the economy of the State of South Dakota, as well as to feeding and sustaining the nation’s and world’s populations. He also sees the impact the growing energy crisis will have on American agriculture’s ability to feed the world. That’s why he’s been committed to doing his part to develop more domestic sources of energy, such as biofuels and clean-burning coal.