The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) joined nearly 200 organizations representing agricultural, food and renewable fuels industries last week in a letter urging Congress to act quickly to prevent a rail strike and service shutdown on November 19, the deadline for unions and railroads to finalize an agreement.
“A strike or lockout combined with existing challenges in the rail system, at our ports, with trucking and with record low water levels on the Mississippi River impacting numerous barge shipments would be catastrophic for the agricultural and broader U.S. economies,” wrote the Agricultural Transportation Working Group in a letter to congressional leadership. “Congress must act to prevent this from occurring if the parties cannot reach agreement.” The group pointed out that critical inputs and agricultural products such as ammonia shipments could be embargoed as early as November 14, the day Congress returns to session.
More than 70 percent of the ethanol produced in the United States is transported by rail across the lower 48 states as well as into Canada and Mexico. Over the last five years, U.S. railroads have transported an average of nearly 395,000 carloads of ethanol per year.
“The U.S. ethanol industry is highly reliant on the rail system to get our products to market,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “More than 400,000 workers whose jobs are supported by the ethanol industry are depending on Congress, the Biden administration, the railroads, and the unions to work this out as quickly as possible. If the nation’s trains stop running, the nation’s ethanol biorefineries stop running too.”
The administration brokered an agreement between the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) and twelve unions on September 15 but two unions have voted to not
ratify and congressional action will be necessary if the parties fail to reach agreement.