Potential longshoremen strike temporarily averted, easing farmers' concerns

Sep 28, 2012

Update: A potential strike by longshoremen in the Pacific Northwest has been temporarily averted, according to a spokesman for the grain terminal operators.  The terminal operators have been trying to reach a new contract with longshoremen at six ports in Washington and Oregon.

Pat McCormick of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers' Association, which represents the terminal operators, says the two sides have agreed to continue talks into mid-October even though the contract expires this Sunday.

"The parties to the agreement have agreed to continue operations, normal operations, during the period of continued bargaining," McCormick said.

Earlier version of the story: A potential strike by longshoremen in the Pacific Northwest has farmers worried they may be saddled with stockpiles of grain.

Longshoremen are trying to hammer out a new contract with operators of grain terminals at six ports in Washington and Oregon. Their current contract expires Sunday night.

A strike or a lockout has big ramifications for farmers who depend on the terminals to export their wheat, soybeans and corn. Sam White works for the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative.

"Moving grain through the terminals would be slower pace, if at all," White said. 

Ports in the Pacific Northwest are crucial for grain exports. Almost half of U.S. wheat exports are shipped out of terminals in the Puget Sound and Columbia River areas.

A spokesman for the companies that run the terminals says he expects the two sides to continue meeting over the weekend. There’s also a fear that a strike or work stoppage has the potential to bubble over into violence, as it did at the port of Longview, Washington, last year.