Senators urge President Biden to intervene in west coast port situation

Republican lawmakers are urging President Biden to intervene in the west coast port situation before worker contracts expire later this summer.

They are urging him to work with the International Longshore Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association to guarantee the negotiations will be completed.

They are concerned that any delays caused by a failed agreement will further disrupt the supply chain, freight congestion, and manufacturing in the U.S.

This week, the Senate will take an important step in working on a House bill aimed at the shipping crisis. The House version of the International Competitiveness bill includes the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The Senate will swap the text of its own bill for the House version, then send it back to the House.

At that point, negotiations can begin on shipping reform.

The legislation would force ocean carriers to take ag exports from U.S. ports instead of shipping back empty containers. It has the support of farm groups.

Until that becomes law, USDA is working to get ag products moving through ports. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a plan Friday, to situate ag goods at a pop-up site, where they are easier to access.

“We’re also going to provide, as part of this effort, a payment to shippers basically $200 dollars per container for dry goods, $400 dollars per container for refrigerated containers. This is designed to offset some of the logistical costs that will be involved,” Vilsack states. “These efforts in Seattle and Oakland are really designed to give us the ability to be able to meet the marketing demand in a timely way and the most efficient and the most effective way from a cost standpoint.”

Moving forward, Vilsack says that he hopes it will spark more conversations about better ways to keep ag moving.

“So our hope is that as we look at other ports and maybe considering this... we’re looking and continuing to look for ways at which we can help move product more efficiently and more effectively. Because when you do, you essentially increase the supply, and when you increase the supply, you essentially balance it with the demand, and when that happens, it has stable prices and hopefully lower prices,” he adds.

USDA says that announcements will be made in the coming weeks on payments to ag companies and cooperatives.


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