Upsets in shipping could lend to the already steep inflation as farmers are beginning to harvest and send fall crops to producers. Farmers are also reportedly set to put fertilizer on their land following the harvest, but fertilizer shipments are being stalled, Reuters noted.
According to the Consumer Brands Association via The Washington Post, railways in the country are ready to pause crop shipments on Thursday.
Max Fisher, chief economist at the National Grain and Feed Association, told the outlet that rail customers said at least one railway would pause accepting shipments of grain on Thursday morning.
Fisher said that some of the people who pay to use the railways and feed animals don’t have an adequate amount of soymeal, which could result in some producers needing to cull livestock.
The majority of major railways in the country have already halted taking in new shipments of items that could be dangerous, such as ammonia fertilizer, according to Justin Louchheim, senior government affairs director at The Fertilizer Institute, an industry organization.
The possible strike is coming six weeks ahead of the time that many midwestern farmers start putting down fertilizer, according to Josh Linville, fertilizer director at StoneX Group. He also said that around 40% of U.S. fertilizer travels via rail during some time before it gets to a farm.
A strike would reportedly especially hurt states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Grain is taken by rail from those states to areas in the pacific northwest to be exported, according to Thomas Lahey, domestic freight manager at Columbia Grain International, per the outlet.
Poultry producers in the U.S. need around 27 million corn bushels and 11 million soymeal bushels each week for bird feed, according to the National Chicken Council, much of which is transported via railroads.
“Any disruption of service could negatively impact the welfare of the birds, and ultimately impact production at a time when Americans are already dealing with record food inflation,” council spokesman Tom Super said.
North Carolina’s grain producers don’t grow enough corn to offer feed for all of the livestock, Bob Ford, executive director of the North Carolina Poultry Federation, said, per the outlet.
“We’d be in trouble if they went on strike for very long,” Ford said. “We’d run out of corn.”
The start of the corn harvesting season in the south “will relieve some of the pressure” on feed resources, Wayne-Sanderson Farms spokesman Frank Singleton said. Wayne-Sanderson Farms is working alongside corn growers to provide feed if it becomes necessary during railway delays.
Railways also move hexane, which is utilized to get the oil out of soybeans, according to Mike Steenhoek, executive director of Soy Transportation Coalition.
“Any slowdown or stoppage of rail service – especially on the eve of harvest – would significantly impact farmers’ ability to meet customer demand – both domestically and internationally,” Steenhoek said.