Getting shipping containers into circulation means getting ag exports to market

Bottlenecks at American ports are showing no signs of letting up, but industry leaders are sharing their optimism as a slew of infrastructure investments are implemented.

American farmers are feeling the effects of delayed imports of farm machinery and crop inputs while also struggling with getting products into export containers. Roger Cryan, Chief Economist for American Farm Bureau, says one of the best short-term solutions would be putting more containers into circulation.

“We are hoping that as those containers get into circulation it will be easier for us ag exporters to get their hands on containers and move them back to the ports, especially if port rules are shifting towards prioritizing dual transactions which means containers that come in loaded get priority over containers that come in empty.”

William Doyle, Maryland Port Administration Executive Director, says they have already set aside an area on the property to hold empty containers until they can be shipped out with Ag exports and they have more plans in the works.

“Here in Baltimore, we’ve got corn, we’ve got soymeal we can put in containerized and we’ve got plans for an agricultural grain transfer facility in the Port of Baltimore for both exports and imports over rail that would be received by trucks and rail and we are looking to the federal government at the USDA for funding to help with that.”

He says there is also funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that they are hoping to put towards upgrading technology.

“For instance, talking about soymeal, what we do in Baltimore, we use old technology. We are infrastructure challenged right now. We get the product out but we use augers and things like that so now we are pointed in the direction of going to the Department of Agriculture to get funding for that facility that would benefit the entire Mid-Atlantic farmers to get their product out into the market.”

Cryan says trucking to and from the ports is also still a challenge, as well as a shortage of overnight parking for long-haul truckers which results in wasted time for shipments.

“If you’ve noticed rest stops on the highway at night are full and trucks are parked along ramps. One survey indicated truckers are spending as much as an hour every night looking for someplace to park so that’s a bipartisan issue, let’s find more parking for truckers.”

To relieve some of the congestion to and from the port, Baltimore just broke ground on a $466 million rail project which Doyle says will open the entire east cost to double stack rail shipments.

Doyle says the Oakland, California port also started holding back empty containers this month for agricultural exports instead of sending them out empty.


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