PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Thursday, Congress avoided the threat of a national rail shutdown that would have brought halted large portions of the economy.

The agreement provides rail workers with a 24 percent raise over five years and additional healthcare benefits, but it does not include adding seven days of paid sick leave.

Friday, some are breathing a sigh of relief after Congress’ reached an agreement averting what would’ve been a costly rail strike.

“It would’ve been devastating to our agriculture and to our economy in general,” said Patrick Kirchhofer, Peoria County Farm Bureau manager.

Kirchhofer estimates that roughly 25 percent of grain and farm products are carried by train. With farmers recently finishing harvest, he said rail being available is a necessity.

“We had some record crops in some areas so we’re going to have a lot of commodities to transport and the railroad is of significant importance,” Kirchhofer said.

As talks of a rail shutdown come to a close, Kirchhofer said it also saves consumers from feeling an extra pinch on their wallets.

“If we have a labor shortage or we can’t get the products that we need, it’s just going to be more expensive for all of us.

Following the passing of legislation avoiding the strike, Congressman Darin LaHood (IL 18th District-R), who voted yes on the legislation, addressed the agreement on social media.

President Biden’s failure to lead requires Congress to act to avert an economically dire rail stoppage. With our economy barreling towards a recession because of Democrats’ failed economic agenda, a rail strike would be catastrophic for our nation – harming vital industries like Illinois agriculture and manufacturing, costing our economy $2 billion a day, and worsening supply chain challenges. The White House’s careless leadership has left Illinois families, farmers, and small businesses facing even greater uncertainty on top of record inflation and high costs. It should not have reached this point, but this resolution will provide certainty for families, farmers, small businesses, workers, and our supply chain.

LaHood Stated on Facebook

After the house’s vote earlier this week, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL 17th District-D) Also wrote about avoiding the rail strike:

“Today, I joined my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bipartisan agreement preventing a catastrophic disruption in the transportation of food, fuel or other critical goods.

“While Congressional involvement in the collective bargaining process is far from ideal, the action we took today was essential to protect our economy from a devastating blow.” 

– Bustos wrote in a statement

Kirchhofer said avoiding the rail strike was also important for imports that farmers need, including products like fertilizer and petroleum.