Overnight into Thursday morning, the White House announced that a deal was reached between unions and railroads to avert a nationwide railroad strike that would have crippled supply chains as we near harvest. The agreement announced this morning now heads to union members for a vote. Word of the deal came after 20 consecutive hours of intense negotiations between railroad unions, workers, the U.S. Labor Department and even the President himself. He reportedly called negotiators around 9 pm Wednesday, something that some believe may have helped move the needle on talks.
Many agriculture groups have reacted to the news. You can view various statements below starting with an interview between Jesse Allen and Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, recapping the news.
ARA Encouraged by Announcement of Tentative Rail Labor Agreement
The ARA team thanks its members along with allied state and regional association representatives who weighed in with their Congressional delegations to urge intervention in order to prevent a disastrous railroad shutdown, which would have cost the U.S. economy up to $2 billion per day, according to a report issued by the Association of American Railroads.
“Transportation is a critical service for the entire economy, and reliable rail service is a significant piece of that puzzle for our members,” said ARA President & CEO Daren Coppock.
“Our ag retailers and the farmers they serve depend on timely delivery of large quantities of supplies to produce the nation’s agricultural bounty, and that can’t happen without rail service. The prospect of a rail strike would have further disrupted a supply chain that is already strained. We hope the unions will quickly ratify the agreement so this cloud of uncertainty can be cleared away.”
Agricultural retailers and other ARA members were already feeling the impact of a potential strike as railroad carriers started to cancel shipments of critical fertilizer products such as anhydrous ammonia and impacting domestic fertilizer production earlier this week.
Freight rail service is vital to America’s agricultural economy, and a complete shutdown would have had devastating consequences to the nation’s and global food production and security.
On Sept. 8 and Sept. 13, ARA along with the Agricultural Transportation Working Group sent letters to Congress notifying them of the importance to act in the event rail carriers and rail labor cannot come to an agreement.
ARA will continue to remain engaged on this important issue by working in cooperation with allied agricultural organizations, Congress, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the Biden Administration to ensure the railroads continue to provide critical service to rural America.
Wheat Growers Applaud Rail Agreement
ARLINGTON, Virginia — The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) applaud the tentative agreement reached between the railroads and rail union representatives that averts a rail shutdown ahead of Friday’s deadline.
The agreement provides rail employees a 24 percent wage increase during the five-year period between 2020 and 2024, while also paying out an immediate $11,000 upon adoption. The labor unions have agreed that they will not strike while the agreed upon deal goes through the ratification process. NAWG and USW would encourage a swift ratification of the agreement.
“NAWG commends all parties involved in the negotiation process for reaching a tentative agreement that averts a rail shutdown,” said NAWG CEO, Chandler Goule. “The pandemic forced the rail laborers into tough situations as essential workers, and we appreciate their willingness to come to an agreement. We also appreciate the railroads understanding the severity of the situation and taking steps to improve their services. Finally, we thank the Administration for its critical roles in mediating negotiations, encouraging agreement and understanding the critical nature of a well-functioning rail system to the agricultural economy and supply chain.”
“Our country’s reputation as the world’s most reliable wheat supplier depends heavily on functioning rail transportation and that won’t change in the future,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “So we welcome this tentative agreement and hope both sides continue to work together to serve shippers like the U.S. wheat industry.”
A railroad strike would have cost the overall economy over $2 billion per day and would have devastating consequences for the prices farmers receive and consumers pay. Wheat farmers are uniquely reliant on rail due to the large distances between production and consumption. Rail has moved over 1 billion bushels of wheat over the last five years, with one car containing enough wheat to make 250,000 loaves of bread.
About U.S. Wheat Associates
U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers.” USW activities in more than 100 countries are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 17 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. USW maintains 15 offices strategically located around the world to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org.
About the National Association of Wheat Growers NAWG is the primary policy representative in Washington D.C. for wheat growers, working to ensure a better future for America’s growers, the industry, and the general public. NAWG works with a team of 20 state wheat grower organizations to benefit the wheat industry at the national level. NAWG’s staff members are in constant contact with state association representatives, NAWG grower leaders, Members of Congress, Congressional staff members, Administration officials, and the public.