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Ag Exporters Seek Remedy for Shipping Crisis

300 ag groups, companies sign letter to transportation secretary

Shipping container cargo port VIA PIXABAY April 2021

As the container shipping crisis continues its crippling effect on U.S. exporters, the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA) joined nearly 300 agricultural and forest product associations and companies – including several SSGA members – this week in signing on to a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging immediate intervention to remedy the situation.

“We need action now,” the letter states, “not additional studies.”

SSGA agrees, as U.S. exporters and their access to foreign markets must be protected.

The letter requests that the Department of Transportation assist the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) “in expediting its enforcement options” and “consider its existing authorities” to determine how it can assist U.S. exporters and the ag producers they serve in their transportation needs.

For more than six months, U.S. ag exporters, including SSGA members who supply Identity Preserved (IP) soya and specialty grains for food manufacture, have suffered under unreasonable practices by ocean carriers. These practices include the declining of U.S. agricultural and other exports in favor of sending empty containers back overseas in order to keep up with the massive demand for consumer imports.

The imbalance has caused congestion, delays and even cancelation at the ports, and carriers have failed to provide accurate notice of arrival, departure and loading times.

Carriers have also imposed unreasonable, punitive financial penalties on exporters, who, through no fault of their own, have missed loading windows. This is in violation of detention and demurrage guidelines set forth by the FMC.

SSGA and other associations have previously supported FMC’s investigation into these practices.

It has been estimated that $1.5 billion in ag exports has been lost during this crisis, which has come on the heels of a pandemic that has also severely injured the market.

With no sign of the crisis letting up in the immediate future, SSGA is hopeful that Secretary Buttigieg will act upon this increasingly dire situation. SSGA members, allies and partners at the Agriculture Transportation Coalition have specific measures to propose and are requesting the opportunity to present them.

Copies of the letter were also sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and leadership of the Senate and House transportation committees. The letter can be found here.

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