“A rail strike would be absolutely catastrophic to agriculture and to global food security,” the president of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) warns.
“We ship about fifty percent of all fertilizer via rail and, if a strike occurs and we have to find alternative sources, there really are not great options for moving that much fertilizer right before spring planting season,” TFI President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch told Fox Business Channel’s “Varney & Co.” on Wednesday.
“There is zero elasticity in transportation at the moment,” Rosenbusch explains in a press statement regarding the effects of a rail strike, noting that consumers would end up paying more for food products:
“We continue struggling with enough trucks, drivers, and most recently, barges. Low water levels have severely curtailed barge movements along the Mississippi River and have affected grain and fertilizer shipments. We’re operating without a backstop and ultimately consumers are going to be the ones paying for inaction.”
The price farmers pay for fertilizer is currently at a record high, having doubled over the past year, and a rail strike would likely result in about a fifty percent increase on top of that – an increase they would be forced to pass on in what they charge for their agricultural products.
On Wednesday, the House passed two bills to mandate a labor deal and avert a strike before the December 9 deadline. One would retroactively give rail workers a 24% pay raise and boost their health care benefits, while the other would provide rail workers with seven sick days. Backed by the Biden Administration, the two measures enjoyed bipartisan support, though only three Republicans voted in favor of the sick leave mandate.
Senate passage of the two bills is, reportedly, problematic.
On Tuesday, TFI released a statement applauding President Joe Biden for intervening in the labor dispute. “TFI appreciates the leadership shown by President Biden in emphatically supporting efforts to codify the Tentative Agreements reached by rail carriers and labor unions in September,” Rosenbusch said in the press release.
Founded in 1883, The Fertilizer Institute represents a membership consisting of fertilizer producers, wholesalers, retailers and trading firms.