USDA will assist in Port of Oakland “pop-up” site

A new pilot program is in the works at a West Coast port to find a short-term solution for shipping delays. Washington Bureau Chief Emily Buck explains the plan and has reaction from industry leaders.

The Department of Agriculture is partnering with the Port of Oakland to set up a new 25-acre “pop-up” site to make it easier for agricultural companies to fill empty shipping containers with commodities.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says they hope to have it operational in early March.

“It’s important for us to start this pilot effort in Port of Oakland. The hope and the goal is that we’re able to expand this opportunity in other ports along the coax in the hope that eventually we see a more free flowing effort on on the export side.”

USDA is covering 60% of the start up cost using commodity credit corporation funds and will also subsidize up to $125 per container for shippers to cover other costs.

“We believe that the combination of the assistance of subsidy and the assistance of this location will help us see an expanded export of nuts, berries, tomatoes, citrus rice and soy beans and other agricultural products, particularly those that are being produced on the West Coast.”

The project will essentially expand the size of the terminal and free up chassis to reduce congestion, according to Andrew Hwang, International Marketing Manager for the Port of Oakland.

“What we are doing here is to give the exporter the ability to pick up empty containers when they need to in a quicker fashion so they can load as cut offs from the ocean carriers move and also the windows for receiving get compressed. I think one of the things that we’re trying to do is just create velocity for the exporters to be able to get as much cargo as they can into the terminal.”

He also thinks the challenges exporters are seeing today will result in larger reforms down the road.

“In the past, contracts had penalties but were never enforceable because of market conditions or market fears. I think moving forward carriers and shippers will be able to speak specifically to the needs of each party and to try and build a program that works for both parties.”

Later this year, the Port of Oakland is also hoping to launch a new “freight intelligent transportation system” which uses 15 types of technology to monitor and manage port traffic.

California Congressman John Garamendi pressed Vilsack, saying previous efforts have not been effective because the logjam has only gotten worse. Vilsack told him USDA was working with limited staff and resources because of the continuing resolution and called on the lawmakers to pass a budget so they can do a better job.


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