SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Throughout the pandemic, supply chain shortages impacted shipping across the country.

Now, a possible freight rail strike means it might take a little longer for items to make it onto the shelves.

“Just as we’re trying to get those supply chains unsnarled, this rail strike would completely upend the supply chain to get into the country,” Mark Denzler, the president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said. 

Freight rail unions and train companies have been involved in an ongoing labor dispute. In September, the Biden administration helped broker an agreement between the two to prevent a strike. 

“A rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” President Biden said in a statement Monday calling on Congress to intervene in the situation.

Eight out of the 12 rail unions in the country ratified the agreement, but to go into effect, all of them must agree to the terms of the deal. 

The uncertainty over the fate of the agreement has manufacturers worried about the economic impact, warning it could raise prices and make it more challenging to find products at the store.

“It would be devastating for our economy, both for manufacturers who make products for retailers who have to stock their shelves, and also for consumers who are going to be unable to find those products on their shelves.”

Not only would a possible freight train strike hurt manufacturers, but it could also have an impact on farmers.

“We rely upon rail transportation to bring us the goods that we enjoy in our homes and the food that we eat, so without those transportation modes available, food security becomes an even greater issue than we’ve already learned it to be,” Jim Birge, the manager of the Sangamon County Farm Bureau, said.

Right now, Birge said low water levels on the Mississippi River have slowed down barge traffic limiting their capacity. This leaves it up to freight trains to make up the difference.

“Without those other two major transportation systems. it all falls on trucks and it’s not capable to handle that,” Birge said.

The Association of American Railroads warns that a strike could cost the US economy $2 billion a day. 

But Richard Funderburg, an associate professor of public management and policy at UIS, disagrees with that number.

“The assumptions of the $2 billion per year are based on a good never being produced,” he said. “Not one that’s being shipped a little later than expected.”

Funderburg believes some are sounding the alarm too soon. 

“A very short strike wouldn’t have necessarily that much of an impact. But if this was to extend over a matter of several weeks, then you would see virtually every industry in the state of Illinois and consumers impacted pretty greatly,” Funderburg said.

If the unions and the train companies can’t make a deal, Congress can intervene and put in place contract terms that workers would have to follow. 

The strike could start as early as Dec. 9.