Almost 200 Ag-related groups are urging Congress to act quickly to prevent a rail strike that could shut down service late next week after two unions already rejected a proposed deal.
If the nation’s trains stop running, the nation’s ethanol biorefineries also stop running. The view from Renewable Fuels Association chief Geoff Cooper; “70 to 80-percent of the ethanol we produce in the U.S. is shipped by rail. And this isn’t just about jobs in the rail sector, it’s about jobs across the entire economy. And, certainly in the ethanol industry, we support 400,000 jobs. And 30-percent of what we produce in this country moves on rail, at some point.”
Which is why RFA and nearly 200 Ag related groups are asking Congress to act without an agreement by a November 19 deadline—and as the White House reconsiders its earlier stance against forcing a deal on the unions.
Cooper; “Well, I think the tune is already changing, and the Labor Secretary, in the last day or two has said, ‘look, if the railroads and unions can’t reach a new deal to avert a strike, then Congress is going to have to step in. But I do think, with the election out of the way, I think there’s every reason to believe that Congress would act.”
A rail shutdown meantime, would compound existing shipping problems like low water levels on the Mississippi.
Cooper; “Limitations on barge traffic, that is also affecting our industry’s ability to move product—and that’s both ethanol and distiller’s grains, our feed coproduct. And then you look at the trucking industry and the challenges that they’re facing, with a labor shortage and just not nearly as many trucks on the highways, as prior to the pandemic.”
A rail strike meantime could stymie critical farm inputs such as ammonia shipments that could be embargoed as early as November 14, the day Congress returns to session.