ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, US — US agriculture groups are telling Congress to prepare to prevent a US rail strike or lockout as two unions rejected an agreement brokered in September and four more are still reviewing it.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and 192 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group said a rail strike or lockout would lead to “shutdowns of rail-dependent facilities resulting in devastating consequences to our national and global food security.”
The Biden administration brokered an agreement between the National Railway Labor Conference, which represents railroads, and 12 rail labor unions on Sept. 15. With two voting against the agreement, a strike could begin as soon as Nov. 19.
“Congressional action will be necessary if the parties fail to reach agreement,” said the food and agriculture groups in a Nov. 3 letter to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “Resolution of this dispute prior to Nov. 19 is necessary to ensure rail service continues uninterrupted. Adding urgency to this matter, critical inputs and agricultural products such as ammonia shipments could be embargoed starting on Nov. 14.”
A rail strike combined with existing challenges in the rail system would be “catastrophic” for the US economy, the groups noted, especially considering the current challenges in other modes of transportation, including trucking shortages and record low water levels on the Mississippi River hindering barge shipments.
The groups urged lawmakers to be prepared to act quickly when Congress is back in session on Nov. 14. Read the full letter here.