The potential for a railway shutdown because several rail unions have yet to ratify a labor agreement has farmers worried about how they’re going to get their just-harvested grain to market. And looking ahead, they’re concerned that a shutdown will prevent the delivery of critical inputs, like fertilizer, in time to start planning for the next season.
The strike threat comes amidst already poor – though improving slightly – rail service conditions, a long-term truck driver shortage and dangerously low water levels on the Mississippi River.
Last week, more than 300 agriculture-related organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, urged President Biden to continue to work with the railroad unions and railroads to ensure that the tentative agreement he helped broker this summer is ratified by the parties.
Though six of the 12 unions have approved the agreement, two have rejected it and there are concerns others may follow suit, the ag groups noted in the Oct. 27 letter.
“If that were to be the case, we could witness a strike that would shut down the entire freight rail system. Because the White House played such a central role in the process, we believe it can be helpful in continuing to move the process forward in a positive direction. Otherwise, Congress will be called upon to act,” they wrote.
Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress can impose a resolution from Biden’s Presidential Emergency Board or order the trains to operate as usual with an extension of negotiations. Because congressional lawmakers won’t be returning to Capitol Hill until the week after the midterm elections on Nov. 8 -- necessitating immediate action if congressional intervention is required to keep the trains moving -- farmers and ranchers are already sending emails to their lawmakers asking them to prevent a shutdown.
You can check out AFBF’s Action Alert and email your lawmakers here.