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Efforts Advance to Alleviate Port Congestion

December 6, 2021

NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) continue to make strides to prompt government action to alleviate ongoing port congestion and high fees limiting U.S. dairy exports.

President Biden’s Nov. 17 announced his support for the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, a key step made last month. The bipartisan legislation provides new authority to the Federal Maritime Commission to address unjust and unreasonable practices by ocean carriers. NMPF has been asking the White House to support this important legislation, which now has 80 congressional cosponsors. A briefing paper on the legislation is here and a “frequently-asked questions” document NMPF and USDEC created can be found here. NMPF continues work with agricultural organization partners to guide expeditious introduction of partner Senate legislation to limit carrier refusal to load agricultural exports in lieu of returning empty containers to Asia and address unprecedented fees that are oftentimes accrued outside of the exporter’s power.

NMPF Executive Vice President for Policy Development & Strategy Jaime Castaneda also joined members of the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Task Force on Nov. 12 to discuss export challenges for the U.S. dairy industry. While keeping up the pressure for the administration to fully tackle the long-term implications the shipping delays have on U.S. dairy’s reputation as a reliable supplier, NMPF welcomed as notable progress a spate of announcements from the federal, state and local levels throughout November, including advancements on:

  • Individual port operation improvements;
  • Temporary easement of truck weight limits in California; and
  • The government’s release of “the Biden-Harris Action Plan for America’s Ports and Waterways,” which will accelerate port infrastructure grants, new construction projects for coastal and inland waterways and land ports of entry.

Beyond highlighting the need for additional government action, the dairy industry is also looking to rewrite the media narrative on the effects of supply chain snarls on the U.S. economy. While most of the focus of the supply chain crisis throughout the fall has been on imports of consumer goods, NMPF is working to shift the focus to include the impact that the challenges have on dairy farmers, cooperatives and the thousands of American workers throughout the dairy supply chain.

As part of this effort, NMPF contributed to a Nov. 14 New York Times article illustrating the strain that export complications have placed on U.S. agriculture, with trade team staff making key connections that made the piece an important opportunity to share dairy’s story. In the article, Brad Anderson, the chief executive of NMPF member California Dairies, Inc. noted the breadth of the issue: “This is not just a problem, it’s not just an inconvenience, it’s catastrophic.”

“Are we going to get toys for Christmas? Are we going to get chips for automobiles? We think those are real concerns and they need to be talked about,” Anderson said. “What’s not being talked about is the long-term damage being done to exporters in the world market and how that’s going to be devastating to our family farms.”

NMPF and USDEC continue to collaborate with the Ports Working Group of dairy producers and exporters to identify additional solutions to alleviate the crisis.