There's a growing concern in the grain industry about the potential for a rail strike.

A major rail strike impacting both railways could be just days away after employees voted 98 percent in favor of a strike mandate.

Close to 10,000 rail workers at CN and CPKC have voted to go on strike unless a deal can be reached. 

The Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) says this is a key concern, with approximately 94% of Canadian grain being transported by rail and destined for export markets.

GGC Chair Andre Harpe says this is coming at the worst time possible and could be absolutely devastating to the agricultural community.

"This is the time when, as farmers, we're trying to get our crops in the ground, and basically, this is the start; this is the income for us for the year. So if we have any holdups at all, this could be potentially devastating. It doesn't matter who you talk to; nobody wants a strike. Nobody wants to go off work, but at the same time, the union has a huge hold on what the railways can do."

He points out that there's not a lot of competition out there, so it can affect things very quickly.

"We have customers that are trying to buy grain right now, and they don't know if they're gonna get it delivered or not. So you know it's not good for Canada as an exporting country. But you know the thing that we really have to worry about is a lot of the fertilizer that we use to make sure we get a good crop comes in by rail, if that gets interrupted, you know, we might not be able to see all our crop."

Harpe is urging the union and railways to consider the broader impact of their negotiations.

"It’s crucial to find a resolution that keeps our trains moving and our grain flowing to markets around the world."

As the mediation period begins, the GGC is advocating strongly for a resolution that ensures the stability and continuity of Canada’s grain supply chain, which is essential for the livelihoods of Canadian grain farmers, our country’s food security, and our economy.