A cooling-off period has derailed a freight railroad strike for now, as key unions continue negotiations that could still spare agriculture and other industries a devastating rail shutdown. The new strike deadline is December 9th—a nearly 3-week extension…but just a “kick the can down the tracks” result for the ethanol industry.
Geoff Cooper, who heads the Renewable Fuels Association, says the corn ethanol industry needs the railroads and unions to hammer out a more permanent solution. Cooper; “Our industry is highly reliant on smooth and efficient rail service and definitely reliant on the trains running. And if the trains stop running, ethanol plants stop running.”
Without a permanent solution, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says Congress will have to step in. Grassley; “I made it very clear that I’m ready to vote for a bill in Congress that we were set to vote on in September, but didn’t need to, because the president intervened successfully and put it off until now.”
And now the unions have agreed to the cooling-off period to allow more negotiations and logistical planning for manufacturers who argue a rail strike could devastate the economy and add to inflation. Cooper says his industry has suffered enough from shipping delays.
Cooper; “It has been a nightmare scenario for the ethanol industry in terms of transportation challenges this past year, and somehow, we’ve been able to ‘gut’ through it. But a rail strike and any further limitations on the river system would be problematic for the industry.”
Referring to the low water levels on the Mississippi. The rail industry earlier put the cost to the broader economy of a strike at two billion dollars per day.