MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate says a rail strike would have a huge impact on the state’s farmers.
Pate says this will have been a good season for farmers “if it doesn’t get messed up right here at the end,” with a looming strike of rail workers threatening to disrupt the supply chain.
Corn, soybeans and grains are some of the state’s biggest exports, but Pate says with grain bins already full, farmers will be in a tough spot if they can’t ship out the product.
“Something has to be leaving the grain bins also, so yeah there’s going to be a real complication in where are they going to store stuff,” Pate said.
He also says the state’s poultry industry will be hit if Alabama can’t bring in food for the animals.
“We won’t have the resources to feed all the animals we currently have in Alabama. I think the poultry industry represents 12% to 13% of the state’s economy so it’s a huge impact,” Pate said.
Simply switching to trucking isn’t quite an option either, with driver shortages being made worse during the pandemic.
“We can’t find the drivers now, for what we have. It would be like needing 467,000 more trucks. That’s unfathomable,” U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R, AL) said.
Tuberville says right now the ball is in President Biden’s court with negotiations. He says if workers do strike, Congress is ready to intervene.
“The president and Congress have the ability to make them go back to work. We’ve talked about it. There’s some things that can be done,” Tuberville said. “So you’ll see Congress and the president get involved in this if they go on strike tonight. We can’t handle 4, 5, 6 days of this. This can’t be one of those 30-day strikes or we won’t have a country.”
The Association of American Railroads estimates that national rail service interruptions could cost more than $2 billion each day.
Pate says while a strike would have huge impacts, he’s not panicked and feels confident that between Congress and the president, something will get worked out.