Minnesota ag leader says railroad strike would harm agriculture

The leader of the Minnesota Crop Production Retailers says if America’s Class I railroads go on strike, the impact on agriculture would be large.

Executive Director Patrick Murray says, “It’s absolutely a critical transportation network, and railroads do play a large role in moving freight here in Minnesota.” And he says, “If there is this strike, certainly there’s going to be that backlog and then that’s going to upend the whole transportation network.”

Murray tells Brownfield his state has a robust network of railroads including four Class One railroads. “We see them going on these short lines that then connect into the Class One’s, and then depending upon which direction they’re going, there’s a lot of the unit trains, the grain unit trains that actually end up terminating in the Pacific Northwest.”

Murray says fertilizer is on the move now, and it won’t be long before harvest time and the need to get grain to market… grain that often starts on the smaller short-line railroads. “A whole host of those potentially would be affected, so where’s that grain going to go if there’s a strike? Well, it’s just going to have to sit there for the time being.”

Murray says if there’s a strike, commodity prices will likely be affected. “Other countries that are looking to buy, whether it’s soybeans or other commodities, they might get a better price from the beans coming from South America versus coming from the United States because we have this backlog and costs have been exacerbated by the strike, so absolutely, I would see that affecting commodity prices.”

Murray says any strike would also affect international shipments to or through Canada.  He also says moving products by truck during a strike would be very expensive and challenging because there is already a truck driver shortage.

The Class I railroads and their unions are at odds over pay, benefits, one-person crews, and other issues.  Unless there’s federal intervention, either a strike or a lockout could begin in mid-September.

Patrick Murray with MCPR discusses the possible railroad strike and its impact on ag with Brownfield’s Larry Lee 8/9/22

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