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NMPF Helps Keep Trains (and Boats) Running

January 5, 2023

NMPF staff and allied organizations played critical roles in keeping transportation networks running in early December, as the prospect of a rail labor strike heightened concerns of an already strained supply chain completely derailing. To ensure that the rail service remained uninterrupted for dairy producers who rely on consistent rail movement both for sourcing feed and moving finished product, NMPF took member concerns to Capitol Hill.

Four rail labor unions voted in November to reject a tentative agreement arbitrated by the Biden Administration, authorizing a strike that could have begun as early as Dec. 9. To avoid a costly rail service shutdown, NMPF, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and allied groups pressed hard for congressional intervention via a series of letters and meetings. Congress passed legislation implementing the tentative agreement, with President Biden signing the law on Dec. 2 and averting a rail shutdown.

The rail efforts, while significant, were only one facet of NMPF’s recent supply chain efforts. NMPF and USDEC on Dec. 13 wrote to Federal Maritime Commission Secretary William Cody with feedback on the agency’s proposed rulemaking on detention and demurrage billing requirements for ocean-bound shipments.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022, passed in June and championed by NMPF and USDEC, provided an important foundation in confronting abuses leveled by ocean carriers on dairy shippers. However, smart, balanced implementation is still needed to ensure that dairy exporters are fully protected against unfair fees, which cost significant resources to resolve.

In the letter to Secretary Cody, NMPF and USDEC recommended against allowing marine terminal operators to bill shippers directly, which could force shippers to resolve disputes with an unknown party, rather than with carriers – with whom they have an established relationship. NMPF also pushed for the FMC to require additional information on invoices, including how and by when a shipper would need to contest a charge, and to clarify the timeframes for when carriers could issue detention and demurrage charges.