USDA Outlines New Program at NMPF, USDEC Supply Chain Webinar

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new program to help address the export side of the supply chain crisis. The initiative was addressed at a webinar of agriculture industry and policy leaders hosted by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

The USDA program discussed during the webinar was launched in partnership with the Port of Oakland and will set up a new “pop-up” site at the port dedicated to easing the loading of empty containers with agricultural exports. The new site will also have a dedicated gate with the ability to pre-cool refrigerated shipping containers in order to reduce bottlenecks at the main entrance to the port.

The new arrangement should be available beginning in March and will include support of $125 per container for movement logistics costs. See the USDA press release here.

“Congestion in and around U.S. ports is one of a series of export supply chain challenges undercutting U.S. dairy exporters’ ability to reliably meet the needs of overseas customers for high-quality U.S. dairy products,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “By creating a process specific to handling U.S. agricultural exports, we expect USDA’s new partnership with the Port of Oakland will help alleviate some of those challenges. We look forward to working with USDA and our members on this new initiative while continuing to pursue additional legislative and administrative solutions to the dairy export supply chain crisis.”

“The delays and disruptions in export shipping have cost the U.S. dairy industry well over $1.3 billion through just the first three quarters of 2021 – to say nothing of the rest of America’s agricultural sector. Solving this problem simply cannot wait any longer and today’s announcement of the close collaboration between our associations, the Port of Oakland and USDA is one key step in the right direction,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Today’s webinar brought together leaders in Congress and the Administration whose efforts have been central to the multi-faceted work of addressing agricultural export supply chain challenges. We thank them for their continuing work and their participation today and look forward to pursuing additional steps to deliver relief for dairy exporters.”

Agri-Pulse, which served as the media partner for the event, reported over 1,200 registrations for the webinar, one of the highest pre-registration figures in the publication’s webinar history.

Speakers included USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack; John Porcari, the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Ports Envoy; Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD); Mike Durkin, president and CEO of Leprino Foods; Andrew Hwang, manager of business development and international marketing for the Port of Oakland; and Jon Eisen, director of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference for the American Trucking Association, as well as moderators Krysta Harden of USDEC and Jaime Castaneda of NMPF and USDEC.

The USDA announcement came just days after Secretary Vilsack hosted a virtual roundtable with leading agricultural industry CEOs on Jan. 27 in which NMPF and USDEC members, among others, raised their concerns tied to exports.

USDEC and NMPF, in collaboration with other agriculture interests across the U.S., have leveraged a multi-prong approach with Congress and the administration since early 2021 to address the supply chain disruptions plaguing the dairy industry, including unprecedented fees, container availability, and lack of transparency.

For example, in addition to last week’s meeting at USDA, NMPF and USDEC supported a bipartisan letter led by U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and signed by 71 members of Congress to the White House urging the administration to use its emergency powers to immediately address problems caused by the crisis and mitigate risks to U.S. agricultural exporters. The letter made three specific requests:

  • Utilize available emergency authorities to incentivize carriers to load full outbound containers instead of empties.
  • Utilize emergency actions that allow gross vehicle weight limits to exceed 80,000 lbs., even if only on a temporary basis.
  • Utilize existing tools and authorities to provide immediate access to critical shipping and logistics equipment.