A Reuters report this week in AgWeb noted that trains are increasingly sitting idle for a number of reasons while labor shortages are plaguing agricultural production, both of which are adding to rising food prices.
The report noted that rail line backlogs throughout the United States are causing delays of grain shipments as well as processed corn syrup and flour, "contributing to the national problem of inflation, food and grain companies said at a hearing this week."
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- both countries of which were major producers and exporters of several commodities -- prices on wheat, vegetable oils, corn and grains have exacerbated shortages that began during COVID-19, when lockdowns and business closures up and down the supply chain beginning in China, where the virus originated, put strains on the global supply chain.
In the end, consumers are suffering at the checkout counter.
"This is the price of bread going up. This is ethanol not getting mixed with gasoline, and the price at the pump going up," Martin J. Oberman, chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which oversees Class I rail carriers, said.
Included in the hearing were Berkshire Hathaway Inc's BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Corp, Norfolk Southern Corp, CSX Corp, Canadian National Railway Company and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
Jon Setterdahl, the product and services Leader at Landus Cooperative, said in a letter to the STB that rail transit times from the farmer-owned cooperative have more than doubled.
Landus buys grain from 7,000 farmers across Iowa and described turning away farmer loads of corn and soybeans as country grain storage elevators waited 20 days for rail carriers to pick up loaded grain cars, up from a week and a half.
"This delay in March consisted in a total five trains being delayed into April, which is a total shortage of grain shipments in that month alone of 2.250 million bushels," said Setterdahl.
The effect of all of this -- along with lousy economic policies from the Biden regime and the Democrat-controlled Congress spending money like we have it -- has led to some of the highest inflation since the early 1980s.
Year over year, for instance, food prices rose 8.8 percent in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, prices for practically everything else Americans consume or buy from used cars to furniture to building materials have risen just as much or more, some well into the double digits. And all of it acts as a massive new tax that, as usual, hits Americans on the lower end of the earnings scale the hardest.
Gas and diesel prices have also more than tripled in some parts of the country as Biden declared a war on fossil fuels on his first day in office when he canceled the long-awaited Keystone XL pipeline that President Donald Trump approved after more than a decade of needless delays.
As for the rail shortages, they are only going to get worse.
While rail carriers claim that the delays are largely due to extreme weather and a surge in shipping demand towards the latter part of 2021, shippers say the real culprits are cost-saving measures taken by railways before the pandemic hit that include labor cuts, putting locomotives in storage to save on fuel, and stretching the length of some trains to as long as three miles, which has increased rail line congestion, downtime and delays.
BNSF, the largest shipper of agricultural products in the country, cut its train, yard and engine workforce by one-fifth -- 2o percent -- in the year before the pandemic hit. Then the carrier laid off another fifth of its workforce in May 2020, the STB noted.
"When the railroads talk about this being a COVID issue, or related to labor shortages across the economy, that's their latest excuse," said Eamon Monahan, vice president of environmental affairs for the Corn Refiners Association. "This is absolutely a years-long issue."
Translation: Food prices will continue to rise, along with everything else in the age of Bidenflation.