Agricultural exporters want DOT to meet shipping challenges | Agriculture
Nearly 300 groups representing agricultural exporters, farmers and ranchers are calling on the US Department of Transportation to intervene in the “predatory and unreasonable” practices of shipping carriers.
In a letter to US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the groups said carriers refuse to ship US agricultural exports from US ports and impose hundreds of millions of dollars in punitive fees already deemed unreasonable by the Commission. federal maritime.
“The burden on exporters, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and our hard-working rural communities is overwhelming. We urge the Department of Transportation to use all existing authorities to address the challenges faced by US agricultural exporters, ”they said.
The groups said the shipping industry, which once had dozens of carriers, has consolidated over the past three decades. One result of this consolidation is the total use of less than a dozen foreign carriers to deliver American agricultural products abroad.
“The tenuous nature of this arrangement is evident as VOCCs (Common Carriers Operating Vessels) deliver massive volumes of imported cargo to US ports and then choose to leave without filling empty containers with US goods and products.
Lucrative freight rates paid by import cargo, combined with congestion and delays at west and east coast ports, lead VOCCs to immediately return empty containers to their home ports overseas, have they declared.
“The situation is exacerbated by the inability of carriers to provide accurate notice to our exporters of the arrival / departure and loading times of cargo, and then by the imposition of draconian financial penalties on exporters for ‘missing’ these. loading windows – a practice the CMF has found to be unreasonable, ”they said.
Foreign markets are essential for American farmers and ranchers, with more than 20% of agricultural production overseas. It is prohibitive for producers to rework the supply chain and find alternative ways to fulfill their contracts overseas, they said.
“This impossibility, coupled with significant price increases, explains estimates of nearly $ 1.5 billion in lost agricultural exports. These losses follow trade disputes and a pandemic that wiped out global markets, ”they said.
Growing frustration with American agriculture is why a wide range of food and agriculture associations have supported the Federal Maritime Commission’s investigation to address predatory or unreasonable behavior by COVCs and its rule setting guidelines for detention and demurrage, they said.
“We need to act now; no further studies. We call on the Ministry of Transport to help the Commission speed up its enforcement options, ”they said.
The groups also urged the ministry to review its existing powers to determine how it can help overcome the current challenges of shipping goods and products.
The groups sent copies of the letter to the USDA and to the chairmen of Senate and House committees involved in transportation and commerce.