• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

‘It’s a very tense time in agriculture’: Potential rail strike worries California farmers

ByPatricia S. Stevens

Nov 24, 2022

SACRAMENTO — As railroad unions and railroad companies remain separate on a new deal for workers, the fate of the national supply chain hangs in the balance — and this is causing concern among California farmers just after a harvest and before delivery runs.

It all means one thing: trouble on the rails.

A full-scale strike is looming after one of the 10 railway unions rejected a new deal. A strike could begin December 9 and the California Farm Bureau (CFB) is concerned.

“It’s a very tight time in farming, I think, across the country, especially in California,” said CFB President Jamie Johansson. “California is heavily dependent on supplies of feed from the Midwest. We don’t produce all the feed we need. Everyone is approached by train.

From large farms to smaller growers like those of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), everyone is affected.

“Anything that drives up the cost of produce and equipment is taken care of by the farmer,” said CAFF spokesman Evan Wiig.

A disruption to these inputs could wreak havoc on farmers and the economy.

“I don’t think our economy can take it at the moment,” Johansson said. “It’s about a loss of about $2 billion a day. If we can’t get these in time, we won’t be able to meet the time windows for fertilizing our crops. It could be a lost season.”

This has led to thoughts of more self-sufficiency, which could also be hampered by a supply outage necessitating changes.

“As we see disruptions in the supply chain, there really is a need to re-evaluate how our food systems are working,” added Wiig.

“Those trying to be early adopters and adapt to a changing supply chain will be caught in the middle,” concluded Johansson.

The California Farm Bureau is working with other states in hopes that Congress will step in. The last time there was a national railroad strike was in 1992. Congressional intervention ended the strike after just two days. The California Farmers Bureau tells CBS13 that their talks with railroad union officials lead them to believe there will be no strike. But the concern and chaos this could cause for the farming sector here in California is a very immediate concern.