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International Trade

Ag Associations send another urgent plea to President Biden

Sep 13, 2021

This morning, over 70 agriculture associations delivered another urgent plea for intervention to President Biden, USDA Secretary Vilsack, Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, FMC Chair Maffei, the Chair of White House Council of Economic Advisors, and the US Attorney General.

Now, more than ever, steps must be taken to relieve the crisis facing American exporters. The ag industry asks the White House to push for near term solutions as listed in the letter bellow.

September 13, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden:

Our organizations represent thousands of exporters of agricultural and related products, as well as the many U.S. entities that facilitate the movement of those goods. As you know, these American businesses have faced significant difficulties in obtaining fair and reliable ocean transport of their goods, owing both to an imbalance in the ocean container shipment system as well as unreasonable practices by ocean carriers, virtually all of which are foreign-based companies. The increased costs and delays our members face as they struggle to export their products are affecting their competitiveness, growth, job creation, and on a broader level, drag down our trade balance and national economic recovery.

We are grateful to you and your administration for steps that have been taken to address this challenge, but U.S. agriculture exporters need relief now in order to be competitive or the problems will get worse. We appreciated that your recent Executive Order (EO) on Promoting Competition in the American Economy included important guidance to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to “vigorously enforce the prohibition of unjust and unreasonable practices” and to “consider further rulemaking to improve detention and demurrage practices and enforcement of related Shipping Act prohibitions.”

We also welcomed the comprehensive Roundtable involving stakeholders engaged in all aspects of the export challenge that Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg held following the issuance of the EO to hear perspectives and to identify further constructive ideas. Finally, we are pleased with some of the initiatives undertaken by the FMC to investigate current carrier practices, and proposals to gain ocean carrier compliance with its thus-far disregarded Interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention. We support the Commission’s proposals to expand its authorities to effectively address unreasonable ocean carrier practices. We are hopeful that the newly constituted National Shipper Advisory Committee, will promptly generate specific near-term solutions.

However, despite these positive steps, the problem not only persists, but is becoming even more dire. Carriers are increasingly declining or cancelling export cargo bookings, while frequent ship delays and cancellations with little or no notice to our exporters, is delaying shipments by weeks or even months. The resulting inability of shippers to deliver their products on schedule affects the reliability of American exports, and subsequently decreases export values and market share. The cost to ship a container has increased between 300 and 500 percent in the past 2 years; U.S. producers are losing from 10-40 percent of their export value to these added costs; an informal survey suggests that U.S. agriculture exporters’ inability to perform is leading to a loss of 22% of their sales.

We realize that the challenges our agriculture exporters face will not change overnight. But with the holiday import surges soon upon us, the challenge is growing. Regulatory action and enforcement steps take time to be implemented, and while those important processes need to move ahead, we call on you and your administration to take effective steps to gain immediate relief. Recognizing that relief may be incremental, it must begin very soon.

The White House Supply Chain Task Force has been meeting with food and agriculture industry stakeholders to identify near-term solutions to supply chain problems. To that end, there are several steps the Administration can take, including:

• Support legislation, including the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act, HR 4996, to address the unfair practices that are currently damaging U.S. agriculture exports;

• Direct the Department of Justice to review the existing Shipping Act law to determine if the enforcement tools in that Act can be activated to gain compliance with the other provisions of the Act setting forth reasonable practices;

• Establish an inter-agency working group focused on facilitating agriculture exports;

• Sponsor initiatives to increase operational tempo, including increasing gate operations, to

include port authorities, terminal operators, labor, ocean carriers, shippers, truckers;

• Provide Federal support for deployment of port and national data-sharing portals, such as

already developed by the Port of Los Angeles;

• Incentivize ocean carriers to increase export flows, by fully utilizing their existing capacity;

• Increase coordination between the FMC and the Surface Transportation Board on oversight of multi-modal container shipments to assure that the FMC and the Shipping Act apply to the complete international transit of goods from origin to destination; and

• Provide public support for and any necessary resources towards the activities the FMC is

undertaking on this issue, including the Interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention and other enforcement and administrative actions.

The steps you have taken demonstrate your appreciation of this. However, it is vital to the American economic recovery that additional steps be taken to relieve the crisis facing American exports.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

1. Agriculture Transportation Coalition

2. African-American Farmers of California

3. Agricultural & Food Transporters Conference of ATA (American Trucking Association)

4. Almond Alliance of California

5. American Farm Bureau Federation

6. American Feed Industry Association

7. American Forest & Paper Association

8. American Potato Trade Alliance

9. American Pulse Association

10. American Seed Trade Association

11. California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association

12. California Farm Bureau Federation

13. California Fresh Fruit Association

14. California Prune Board

15. California Rice Commission

16. California Table Grape Commission

17. California Trucking Association

18. California Walnut Commission

19. Cascade Shippers Association

20. Colorado Corn Growers Association

21. Consumer Brands Association

22. Corn Refiners Association

23. DairyAmerica Inc.

24. Dairy Farmers of America

25. DARIGOLD, INC.

26. Harbor Trucking Association

27. Hardwood Federation

28. Idaho Potato Commission

29. Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference of ATA

30. International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses

31. International Dairy Foods Association

32. Leather and Hide Council of America

33. Meat Import Council of America

34. National Association of Egg Farmers

35. National Chicken Council

36. National Cotton Council

37. National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

38. National Fisheries Institute

39. National Hay Association

40. National Milk Producers Federation

41. National Onion Association

42. National Pork Producers Council

43. National Turkey Federation

44. Nisei Farmers League

45. Northarvest Bean Growers Association

46. North American Blueberry Council

47. North American Meat Institute

48. North American Renderers Association

49. North Dakota Grain Growers Association

50. Oregon Potato Commission

51. Oregon Seed Association

52. Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Associations

53. Pacific Northwest Asia Shippers Association

54. Pet Food Institute

55. Potato Growers of Michigan, Inc.

56. Potato Growers of Washington, Inc.

57. Produce Marketing Association

58. Specialty Crop Trade Council

59. Specialty Soya & Grains Alliance

60. U.S. Apple Association

61. U.S. Dairy Export Council

62. U.S. Meat Export Federation

63. U.S. Pea and Lentil Trade Association

64. United Fresh Produce Association

65. United States Cattlemen’s Association

66. US Forage Export Council

67. USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council

68. USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

69. USA Rice

70. Washington Farm Bureau

71. Washington State Hay Growers Association Washington State Potato Commission

72. Western Agricultural Processors Association Western Growers

73. Wine and Spirits Shippers Association

74. Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association

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