In a March 7 letter to President Joe Biden, The Fertilizer Institute, the National Grain and Feed Association, and 19 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group requested the administration work with the Canadian government to avert a major railway labor strike and to rescind the cross-border vaccine mandate for workers moving essential commerce.
“(I)f the U.S. and Canadian governments allow the following supply chain disruptions to persist into the spring fertilizer season, the impacts to our industry and North American farmers could be devastating,” the working group noted.
The letter references a potential upcoming labor disruption at Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway. The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference recently voted in favor of strike action, which could happen as early as March 16. The impact would be significant for grain movements on both sides of the border for livestock feeding and processing operations served by the CP.
The strike also would halt the CP route that carries U.S grain to the Pacific Northwest export market. Grain is CP’s largest line of business and approximately 10-15 percent of CP’s business is fertilizer, the working group noted.
“A CP railway strike would severely curtail fertilizer supply and shipments into the United States and would happen at the worst possible time as farmers are planting their 2022 crops,” the letter states. “Given the fragility of current supply chains, urgent attention and engagement with all parties is needed to avert a potential strike.”
The letter also urged the U.S. and Canadian governments to modify or rescind their mandates blocking unvaccinated foreign nationals, including truck drivers, from crossing the border. Canada’s vaccine mandate requires U.S. truckers to show proof of vaccination before entering the country and the U.S. mandate requires foreign cross-border truckers to be vaccinated. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said its border policy will remain in effect through April 21.
“The border policy has raised prices because it has constrained trucking capacity and made truck movements more expensive and less timely,” the letter states.
Over one million short tons of fertilizer cross the U.S.-Canada border by truck each year. March, April and May are peak months for fertilizer applications across the northern states.
“Given the urgency of several supply-chain challenges, we urge revision or rescission of the border policy prior to April 21,” the working group stated.