Monday, October 29, 2012
Farmers worry as PNW grain talks continue
A federal mediator is arbitrating talks today between the West Coast longshore union and Pacific Northwest grain terminals that handle 25 percent of the U.S. grain exports.
Farmers in wheat country fear that their crops may have trouble getting to market because of the possibility of a lockout, since longshoremen and terminal owners still seem far from an agreement.
Growers worry that even if non-union labor is hired to load ships going to Asia during a lockout, grain elevators could still back up if there are not enough workers or if negotiations drag on too long.
Wheat, corn and soybeans that are transported to the six terminals involved in the labor talks come from as far away as the Dakotas.
Oregon farmers belong to co-ops, which hold their grain in county elevators, hauling it to terminals on the Columbia River. The terminal's non-union workers load barges that carry grain to Columbia River ports including four of the terminals -- three in Portland and one in Vancouver – that are currently in talks with longshoremen.
The companies that own the terminals, under the grain-buying system, bid for the wheat from farmers and negotiate with longshoremen to load ships.
"It's the grower that ends up suffering," in the event of a lockout, said Brad Wiley, operations manager of coop Mid Columbia. "And, we push business away and have a hard time getting it back."
Representatives of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have said in past negotiations that the corporations that own export terminals garner billions in sales and millions in profits globally, and are holding up the U.S. economy by failing to reach an agreement with labor.
Both the ILWU and the Pacific Northwest Grain Association have agreed to keep the content of the talks confidential.
For more of the Oregonian story: oregonlive.com
More Newswire stories
NY and NJ ports close, others on East Coast batten down for Sandy
Savannah dredging gets federal approval
FedEx will develop $100M air cargo hub in Shanghai
Russian cargo ship filled with 700 tons of gold ore disappears
Today's Cargo News Archives