USDA, DOT call on ocean shippers to help disruptions in shipping

Legislative Watch: Mitigating ag export disruptions; Taiwan rejects U.S. pork referendum; Manchin says no; antibiotic sales for livestock down; net farm income to increase.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

December 24, 2021

4 Min Read
USDA, DOT call on ocean shippers to help disruptions in shipping
National Pork Board

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack are calling on the leading ocean carriers to help mitigate agricultural export disruptions. Ocean carriers are making fewer containers available, changing return dates and charging unfair fees.  

The cabinet members sent a letter to the major world ocean carriers calling for full service at the West Coast ports. They also indicated that if the issue was not resolved quickly, the Federal Maritime Commission may take action.

Buttigieg and Vilsack said in the letter, "This unprecedented disruption to the flow of goods worldwide has required both government and industry to pull every lever and maximize the use of our existing infrastructure while simultaneously working to ensure that our supply chain is more resilient to future disruptions.

"In the spirit of fully utilizing our current infrastructure, we're writing to emphasize the critical nature of service to underutilized West Coast ports to ensure American agricultural exports can be freely transported overseas.

"It is also critical that we restore reciprocal treatment of imports and exports that is inherent in trade. Shippers of U.S. grown agricultural commodities and goods have seen reduced service, everchanging return dates and unfair fees as containers have short-circuited the usual pathways and been rushed to be exported empty. This imbalance is not sustainable and contributes to the logjam of empty containers clogging ports. The poor service and refusal to serve customers when the empty containers are clearly available is unacceptable and, if not resolved quickly, may require further examination and action by the Federal Maritime Commission."

The House passed the "Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021" earlier this month that had support from a large number of agricultural organizations.

Taiwan rejects referendum on U.S. pork
A referendum in Taiwan to reinstate a ban on imports of U.S. pork was defeated last Saturday. Polls prior to the vote indicated it would pass.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen lifted the ban in January when Taiwan began recognizing maximum residue limits (MRLs) for ractopamine. President Tsai Ing-wen and Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party urged a no vote on the referendum. The main opposition party, the Chinese Nationalist Party or KMT, called for the ban to be reinstated because of the use of ractopamine.  

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said the referendum result will have "little impact on U.S. pork entering Taiwan, as importers and processors continued to request ractopamine-free product even after the MRLs were adopted." USMEF hopes now that the election is over, the issue will attract less media attention and the business climate will improve for U.S. pork.

Tsai would like to do a free trade agreement with the U.S. and join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).  

Manchin says no on Build Back Better
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) last Sunday said on "Fox News Sunday" that he could not vote for the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package, a priority of President Joe Biden. Manchin cited rising consumer prices, growing national debt and the new Omicron variant as reasons he could not vote in favor of the package.  

He said in a statement after the interview, "My concerns have only increased as the pandemic surges on, inflation rises and geopolitical uncertainty increases around the world.

"I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight."

An immediate impact of not passing the bill will be the experation of the 2021 child tax credit. This had given qualifying families up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child ages 6 through 17. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the Senate will vote on the Build Back Better bill in January to put every member on the record.

In order to pass the bill, the administration needs all 50 Democrat Senators to vote for the bill.  

Antibiotic sales down for livestock
The sale of antibiotic drugs for livestock in the United States declined 3% from 2019 and is down 38% from the peak year of 2015 according to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) latest report.  

FDA said, "This suggests that continued efforts to support the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals are having an impact."

Each year, the FDA releases a summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed for food producing animals.

Net farm income to increase in 2021
USDA is forecasting net farm income for 2021 at $116.8 billion, the highest level since 2013. Net farm income is a broad measure of profits.  

Net cash farm income is estimated to reach $133 billion in 2021, the highest level since 2014. Net cash farm income is cash receipts from farming as well as farm-related income (including government payments) minus cash expenses.  

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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