Poultry Producer Says Grain Inventories Restored

The federal government had ordered Union Pacific Railroad to step up its shipments.

A Union Pacific train travels through Union, Neb., July 31, 2018.
A Union Pacific train travels through Union, Neb., July 31, 2018.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

California poultry producer Foster Farms said Friday its grain inventories have been restored after the federal government ordered Union Pacific Railroad to step up its shipments.

On Dec. 30, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, an independent federal agency that oversees railroad rates, service and other economic issues, told Union Pacific to make all efforts to meet scheduled grain deliveries to the privately owned, Modesto-based company.

Foster Farms had warned regulators that millions of birds could die without the grain deliveries. The company said thousands of cattle also were dependent on the feed that Foster Farms sells.

But on Friday, Foster Farms said six Union Pacific trains had completed their deliveries and additional trains are scheduled. Bird health is no longer at risk, the company said.

"We have a long working relationship with Union Pacific, and it is our hope that more reliable service standards can be maintained and further disruptions minimized," Foster Farms said in a statement.

Union Pacific said Friday that it has voluntarily provided the Surface Transportation Board and Foster Farms with service updates since Jan. 3.

"While we have made incremental progress reducing network congestion and increasing velocity, we are still seeing longer than anticipated recovery due to residual weather impacts," the company said in a statement.

Union Pacific has blamed extreme cold and blizzard conditions for slowing deliveries in 20 of the 23 western states in which it operates.

It was the second time this year that the Surface Transportation Board has issued an emergency order related to Union Pacific's delivery problems at Foster Farms.

On June 17, the board directed Union Pacific to restore Foster Farms' service to a level that allowed it to feed its poultry and fill customers' orders. Several weeks later, the board required Union Pacific to begin filing daily status reports and inform the board and Foster Farms of any schedule deviations.

Union Pacific and other rail companies have struggled with labor shortages over the past year, exacerbating service issues.

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