President Biden urged the Senate to vote by the end of the week to avert a nationwide rail freight shutdown that would wound the U.S. economy. On a bipartisan roll call, the House passed legislation on Wednesday to impose a contract on railroad labor unions. The so-called tentative agreement was reached in negotiations aided by the administration.
The Canadian Pacific is being sued by agri-processor ADM, which says service disruptions at its plants in North Dakota and Minnesota in 2013 and 2014 were due to the railroad's cost-cutting and pursuit of merger partners.
The rail-car snarl of last winter may have cost corn, wheat and soybean growers in the upper Midwest $570 million, or 3 percent of their cash receipts for the crops, says a USDA report. To calculate the figure, department economists looked at the impact of higher shipping costs and lower local grain prices in Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, where shipping delays were the worst due to a harsh winter, a large volume of grain awaiting transport and competition for rail service by the oil-shale industry.
The oil boom in the northern Plains "is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been help up by a vast new movement of oil by rail," said the New York Times.