USMEF, Food Groups Asking Administration For Action At West Coast Ports

Agriculture groups across the country are sounding the alarm of port congestion and container shortages at the west coast ports. Travis Arp, senior director of export services at U.S. Meat Export Federation, said like most other industries, the ports have been hit hard by the pandemic and COVID restriction.

“To where there just isn’t the available labor to get these ships loaded and off loaded in a really efficient manner.  It’s led to a lot of these inbound vessels having to sit at anchor for days, and sometimes even weeks at a time while they wait for the available labor to bring those ships into call.”

Arp said those ports, from Los Angeles to Tacoma are vital not only for western farmers but those back east. He noted as cargo continues to be trucked in from the Midwest, product is left sitting at the terminal waiting for an available vessel.

And it’s not just the terminals where problems occur. Arp said finding available space on an out bound ship can be very difficult.

“Exporters out of China and other Asian countries are paying a huge premium for dry container space for things like consumer goods and textiles, and because of that huge disparity there’s actually an incentive for the carriers to load up those dry containers without any cargo in them, and ship them back over to Asia, often taking up space on those vessels where we could be shipping U.S. exports to Asia.”

A host of agriculture groups are now calling on the Biden administration to address the situation. Some are calling for the use of the Shipping Act to be used, which would provide the Federal Maritime Commission with the authority to prohibit unreasonable, unjust practices, and “to promote the growth and development of U.S. exports through competitive and efficient ocean transportation.

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