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Administration, Congress Pressed to Address Port Problems

October 5, 2021

NMPF, USDEC and a coalition of agricultural associations are keeping up pressure on the White House and Congress to take immediate, substantive actions to relieve worsening problems with port delays and costs.

NMPF and over 75 national and regional agricultural organizations, companies, and dairy cooperatives sent a letter to President Biden Sept. 13 listing specific steps the administration can take to provide near-term solutions to supply chain problems. NMPF and USDEC wrote the letter and initiated the effort.

Meanwhile, NMPF’s Trade Policy team organized an agricultural coalition meeting Sept. 14 with Carlos Monje, U.S. Department of Transportation Under Secretary for Policy, and John Pocari, Port Envoy to the Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, to discuss additional specific steps the White House and Transportation Department could take to force a change in carrier behavior and improve the conditions facing agricultural exporters.

NMPF, USDEC and other members of the agriculture coalition also met virtually Sept. 2 with Tim Manning, White House National COVID-19 Supply Coordinator, to recommend the administration build upon a July 9 Executive Order from President Biden directing the Federal Maritime Commission to “vigorously enforce” guidelines on reasonable detention and demurrage fees by taking additional steps to address the mounting shipping crisis.

Throughout these discussions, NMPF, USDEC and coalition members have also urged the administration to work to extend terminal gate hours and push for the integration of key technology to optimize port efficiency, among other key funding and enforcement steps. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports announced Sept. 17 they were incrementally increasing their hours operations – a step in the right direction but not yet enough to provide the capacity needed to process increasing shipping flows.

NMPF Trade Policy staff is also continuing to build bipartisan support in Congress for the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (H.R. 4996), introduced on August 11 by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD). The legislation would address the unfair practices and charges implemented by ocean carriers.

The bill currently has 32 cosponsors, and NMPF is working to encourage additional members of Congress to sign onto the legislation. The bill was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation for consideration. A briefing paper on the legislation can be found here.