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As Rail Strike Looms, Pres. Biden Calls on Congress to Act, While U.S. Threatens Legal Action on Mexico’s Planned Import Ban of U.S. GMO Corn

Esther Fung and Andrew Restuccia reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “President Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would avert a rail shutdown by imposing a proposed contract that members at four railroad unions had rejected.

“The move would cut short a long-running labor dispute between the country’s biggest freight railroads and more than 115,000 workers that threatens to hurt the economy and disrupt the flow of goods as soon as next week.”

The Wall Street Journal (Page A3 – November 29, 2022).

The Journal article noted that, “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said the House would vote this week on legislation to adopt the tentative agreement, which was based on recommendations from a White House mediation panel. Members at four out of 12 unions have rejected the proposed contract.

“Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress can make both sides accept an agreement that their members have voted down. Lawmakers also can order negotiations to continue and delay the strike deadline for a certain period, or they can send the dispute to outside arbitrators.”

“Freight railroads move about 40% of U.S. long-distance cargo and deliver freight such as feedstock, coal, lumber, construction material and automotive parts. Even a short strike could lead to diversions and cascade to delays and congestion, pushing back recovery in some supply chains,” the Journal article said.

Lauren Kaori Gurley, Tyler Pager and Tony Romm reported in today’s Washington Post that, “With less than two weeks until a railroad strike deadline, President Biden called on Congress on Monday to impose a deal negotiated with help from his administration this year to avert a shutdown of the country’s freight railroads.

“‘I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,’ Biden said in his statement on Monday evening.”

The Washington Post (Page A15 – November 29, 2022).

“Union officials have recently said it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the unions and major rail freight carriers would reach a deal over lingering issues before a Dec. 9 strike deadline,” the Post article said.

And Michael D. Shear and Noam Scheiber reported in today’s New York Times that, “But Mr. Biden’s call for Congress to act underscores the recognition that a rail strike could have a devastating effect on the fragile economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic. Frozen train lines would snap supply chains for commodities like lumber, coal and chemicals and delay deliveries of automobiles and other consumer goods, driving up prices even further.”

Elsewhere, Reuters writers Kylie Madry and Valentine Hilaire reported yesterday that, “The United States on Monday threatened legal action against Mexico’s plan to ban imports of genetically modified corn in 2024, saying it would cause huge economic losses and significantly impact bilateral trade.”

“Citing the ‘deep concerns’ of U.S. farmers over Mexico’s impending ban on genetically modified corn, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement following a meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador: ‘We must find a way forward soon.'”

The planned ban would halve Mexico’s imports of yellow corn from the United States, a Mexican agriculture official told Reuters in October.”

Top 10 Markets for Corn in 2021. USDA- Foreign Agricultural Service Graph.

Meanwhile, DTN Basis Analyst Mary Kennedy reported yesterday that,

The last tow of 2022 left the far Upper Mississippi River and made its way south over the weekend of Nov. 25. Traditionally, the last tow departing St. Paul and heading south of Lock and Dam 2, near Hastings, Minnesota, marks the unofficial end of the navigation season in the UMR.

“U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, started closing four locks and dams on Nov. 1 for routine winter maintenance, ending the 2022 navigation season. The St. Paul District maintains a 9-foot navigation channel and 13 locks and dams from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa.”

Other locks on the Mississippi River will also eventually close for navigation as the Corps gets busy with winter lock maintenance. Locks 12, 13, 15 and 19 in the Rock Island District will be closed by Jan. 3, 2023, until spring and Locks 21 and 22 will close by Jan. 13, 2023, until March 2023,” the DTN article said.

With respect to the Lower Mississippi River, Kennedy pointed out that, “After a few weeks of reprieve from extremely low water and barge groundings, thanks to Tropical Storm Nicole, river levels are falling back again.”

Also yesterday, Reuters writer Pavel Polityuk reported that, “Ukraine has exported almost 17.2 million tonnes of grain so far in the 2022/23 season, down 31.9% from the 25.3 million tonnes exported by the same stage of the previous season, agriculture ministry data showed on Monday.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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