WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 – The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) sent a statement today urging Congress to prepare emergency legislation to avert a potential national rail strike that could begin as early as midnight on Dec. 6.
The NGFA’s statement urged Congress to take action if a comprehensive labor accord is not reached by COB today or if two rail unions that have not agreed yet to an additional cooling-off period fail to do so by midnight tonight.
President Obama on Oct. 6 established a Presidential Emergency Board and an additional cooling-off period to provide time for the nation’s Class I railroads and unions to reach agreement. Subsequent negotiations resulted in agreements between the carriers and 13 separate unions. One other union – the Brotherhood of Maintenance Way Employees – subsequently agreed to extend the current cooling-off period until Feb. 8, 2012. At this time, the two other unions – the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the American Train Dispatchers Association – have not agreed to such an extension of the cooling-off period.
The NGFA’s statement urged Congress to enact such legislation imposing the terms recommended by the Presidential Emergency Board on both rail management and rail unions if a comprehensive agreement is not reached by close of business today, or if the two unions that have not agreed yet to an additional cooling-off period fail to do so by then.
“Such a strike – indeed the mere prospect of one as the Dec. 6 deadline approaches – would further imperil an already fragile economic recovery and job market,” the NGFA wrote. “It also would have significant adverse impacts on the grain, feed, grain processing and export sectors represented by our membership, which are highly dependent upon freight rail transportation to efficiently and cost-effectively move raw and processed agricultural products to domestic and international markets.”
The NGFA’s statement noted that freight railroads currently account for approximately 35 percent of the transport of agricultural products, and that demand for freight rail service often peaks for agricultural products during this post-harvest season. Further, the NGFA noted that with the onset of winter, weather-related restrictions soon will be imposed upon barge traffic on the inland waterways, which traditionally accounts for approximately 12 percent of the movement of U.S. agricultural products to market.
“A national freight rail strike would undermine significantly our industry’s ability to meet domestic and export market demand – U.S. agricultural exports are one of the sole positive contributors to the U.S. balance of trade – and would result in significant adverse financial impacts on a wide array of businesses dependent upon agricultural production,” according to the NGFA. “These include food, animal feed, pet food and biofuel firms and other industry sectors that employ millions of Americans. Such a strike also would depress farm-gate prices to agricultural producers.”
In addition to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the NGFA’s letter also was sent to all members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees; the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com