The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) in the United States has urged Congress to prepare to enact emergency legislation to avert a potentially 'calamitous' national freight rail strike that could occur at the start of Tuesday December 6.
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.
But at this writing, 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 end of 1 December, 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.”
Freight railroads currently account for approximately 35% of the transport of agricultural products, and that demand for freight rail service often peaks for agricultural products during this post-harvest season.
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% of the movement of US agricultural products to market.
Established in 1896, the NGFA
is the US’s largest organization of rail shippers and receivers of grain, feed, feed ingredients and grain products.
It comprises more than 1,050-member companies that operate more than 7,000 facilities and handle more than 70% of the US grain and oilseed crop.
With more than 350 member companies involved in feed manufacturing and integrated livestock and poultry operations, the NGFA also is North America’s largest feed organization.