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Supply Chain Needs Outlined by NMPF, USDEC to Administration

May 4, 2022

NMPF and USDEC, with input from their joint export supply chain working group, took multiple steps last month to tout additional actions the U.S. government could take to help address the supply chain issues plaguing dairy exporters.

Highlighting the efforts were comments the two organizations submitted to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) on April 14 concerning detention and demurrage billing requirements. The comments outlined a series of nine recommendations for rulemaking focused on upgrading carriers’ information requirements related to detention and demurrage — measures that would help correct the current information power imbalance that favors carriers.

NMPF and USDEC also sent a letter April 21 to Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recommending five additional tools that could provide supply chain relief and support to dairy farmers and exporters. The leading recommendation called for USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) to restart its Ocean Shipping Container Availability Report (OSCAR) which previously detailed the availability of ocean shipping containers at locations across the United States on a weekly basis. NMPF export supply chain working group members have underscored the usefulness of this report and urged its reactivation.

Shortly thereafter, NMPF joined a coalition of agricultural associations in an April 25 letter to Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Buttigieg, asking the administration to coordinate a meeting between exporters and ocean carriers to foster progress on export shipping access.

While these immediate steps could help deliver much-needed immediate relief, NMPF also remains focused on advancing longer-term legislative efforts to heighten the oversight of ocean shipping practices and mandate reforms.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA)– now passed by both the U.S. House and Senate – is headed to conference to reconcile differences in the two versions. NMPF and USDEC played a key role in shaping the text for both versions and securing bipartisan support, but the work continues to ensure the provisions that would deliver the most tangible solutions are retained in a final bill.

The most likely route forward is through the conference process slated to begin in May on a China competitiveness legislative package of which OSRA is a part. NMPF joined an April 20 letter from a broad coalition of U.S. exporting organizations to the conferees, urging the inclusion of the more prescriptive provisions unreasonable carrier behavior.