Foster Farms seeks emergency order for better rail service

Concerned that corn is not being shipped to its California feed mills in a timely manner, Foster Farms petitioned the Surface Transportation Board for an emergency service order to direct Union Pacific Railroad Company to give such shipments preference and priority.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Courtesy Union Pacific)
(Courtesy Union Pacific)

Foster Farms petitioned the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for an emergency service order to direct Union Pacific Railroad Company to give preference and priority to ship loads of corn from the Midwest to two of the company’s facilities in California.

Union Pacific delivers corn to Foster Farms feed mills in Traver, California, and Turlock, California, in 100-car unit trains, but according to Foster Farms’ petition, service failures began in February. Foster Farms, in the petition, said it believes an emergency service order is necessary to alleviate harm to its business and the poultry and other animals that depend on the distribution of corn meal supplied by Foster Farms.

The petition asked the board to direct Union Pacific, over a 30-day period, to:

  • Prioritize the assignment of crews to Foster Farms unit trains at loading origins
  • Relax the Hours of Service rules to enable the train to complete its movement from origin to destination without stopping
  • Assign and retain sufficient locomotives to Foster Farms’ trains at loading origins so when grain is loaded, the trains can immediately begin moving toward the Foster Farms feed mill destinations
  • Provide the STB with daily status reports regarding the delivery of Foster Farms trains

Union Pacific filed a reply, acknowledging that the service it has provided to Foster Farms has been insufficient, and that it was committed to improving that service. Union Pacific said it would prioritize making sure there are sufficient locomotives, cars and personnel to make timely deliveries. The railroad company also said it would provide STB with the requested status reports, and that it would participate in weekly technical conferences between the parties until the volume requirements were fulfilled.

The STB found that the requested order was warranted, and that it would closely Union Pacific’s rail service.

The order follows earlier action from the STB, in which it announced on May 6 that it would require all Class 1 railroads to send regular progress reports on service, operations and employment while issues with rail service disruptions have been occurring.

Foster Farms was recently acquired by Atlas Holdings, and named Donnie Smith as the company's new CEO.

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