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Rail News: Shippers

Ag shippers describe concerns to USDOT, USDA

A container ship docks at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday hosted a meeting with representatives of U.S. agricultural products and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) leaders to discuss current issues surrounding shipping U.S. agricultural exports, as well as logistical and technical concerns.

Meeting participants included stakeholders in the livestock, grains, specialty crop and dairy industries, as well as representatives from the shipping and value-added sector of U.S. agriculture.

The discussion allowed farm groups to provide data and firsthand shipping experiences to the USDOT team, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s blog on the department’s website.

“The recent resurgence of international trade has placed nearly every sector of the supply chain under stress, including warehousing, trucking, rail service, inland and ocean terminals, container availability and vessel service,” Vilsack wrote. “While this disruption is impacting ports along the West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest container ports in the United States, moving nearly a third of containerized agricultural exports by volume, have experienced the worst disruption.”

The shippers described recent occurrences with ocean carriers, as well as the emergence of detention and demurrage charges. Others recalled canceled or delayed bookings, as well as the difficulty in meeting export demands.

Export challenges began in fall 2020 and have escalated to include a wide range of affected commodities and port regions, according to Vilsack.

The USDOT team highlighted efforts underway and committed to work with the Federal Maritime and others to help address the shippers’ concerns, he said.

“For far too long, farmers have struggled to find a market for their products and get a fair price for their hard work,” Vilsack added. “With markets opening back up, and more appropriate prices on the board, we must work together to collectively ensure that U.S. farm products reach their intended destination in the hands of consumers around the globe.”

The discussion was led jointly by USDA Chief of Staff Katharine Ferguson and USDOT Senior Adviser Carlos Monje, the key point of contact for U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on this issue.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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