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Ag groups call on Senate to pass Ocean Shipping Reform ActAg groups call on Senate to pass Ocean Shipping Reform Act

Legislative Watch: Federal Maritime Commission needs new rules; Farmer Fairness site; USDA partners with Port of Oakland; CRP enrollment now open.

P. Scott Shearer

February 4, 2022

4 Min Read
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More than 100 agricultural associations and companies are calling on the U.S. Senate to prioritize passage of ocean shipping reform legislation. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the group emphasized the urgency of the problem and that continuing port congestion hinders exports of U.S. agricultural products.

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition found in a recent survey that "on average, 22% of U.S. agriculture foreign sales could not be completed due to ocean carrier practices."  

Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Pork Producers Council, North American Renderers Association and U.S. Meat Export Federation.  

Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) yesterday introduced the Senate version of the "Ocean Shipping Reform Act."  The Senate bill instructs the Federal Maritime Commission to develop new rules regarding carriers refusing to carry U.S. products. The House version would prevent carriers from refusing to carry U.S. agricultural products. The House passed the "Ocean Shipping Reform Act" by a vote 364-60.

Website to report anticompetitive practices in livestock and poultry sectors
The USDA and the U.S. Department of Justice have launched a website, Farmer Fairness, in which a farmer or rancher can anonymously report potentially unfair and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "This new online tool will help USDA and the Justice Department address anticompetitive actions and create livestock and poultry markets that are fairer to our nation's producers." 

Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "Today's launch of farmerfairness.gov – a one-stop shop to report potential violations of our competitions laws – will allow the Justice Department and USDA to collaborate early, enforce the law vigorously and ensure economic opportunity and fairness for all."

USDA Packers and Stockyards Division staff and DOJ staff will review the complaints and determine if there is sufficient concern for further investigation by either USDA or DOJ. This will determine if a formal investigation is needed.

USDA announces efforts at Oakland port
The USDA announced a partnership with the Port of Oakland to increase capacity and improve service for shippers of U.S. agricultural commodities. USDA is partnering with the port to set up a new 25-acre "pop-up" site to make it easier for agricultural companies to fill empty shipping containers with commodities. The site is scheduled to open in March and could be replicated at other ports.

USDA is using Commodity Credit Corporation funds to cover 60% of the site's start-up costs. Also, USDA will cover additional movement logistics costs at $125 per container.

In a press release, USDA said, "Fewer containers have been made available for U.S. agricultural commodities, as ocean carriers have circumvented traditional marketing channels and rushed containers back to be exported empty and as a result, many of these carriers have suspended service to the Port of Oakland."  

Secretary Vilsack said, "This partnership with the Port of Oakland builds on our aggressive approach to addressing challenges within the supply chain and sends a strong signal that we are committed to working across the Administration and with state, local and private partners to mitigate complex port capacity and congestion issues and to keep American agriculture on the move."

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said, "After we helped set up inland pop-up ports at the Port of Savannah, we witnessed significant improvements in the flow of goods, and we expect to see similarly positive results once this Oakland facility is open. We look forward to engaging with other ports on similar solutions to congestion."

 A recent study by the University of California's Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics highlighted the problems U.S. shippers are having in obtaining containers. The study said, "Recently, for every 10 containers inbound from Asia with freight, approximately eight were sent back empty. In September 2021, the fee for shipping a single 40-foot container rom Shanghai to Los Angeles was $12,000 versus only $1,400 for the backhaul from Los Angeles to Shanghai."

CRP enrollment is now open
Signup in the General Conservation Reserve Program is now open. USDA announced the CRP signup is from Jan. 31 - March 11. The Grassland CRP signup will be from April 4 - May 13.

There are currently 22.1 million acres enrolled in CRP out of the 25.5 million acres allowed to be in the program for fiscal year 2022.

Producers and landowners interested in CRP or who would like to enroll should contact their local USDA Service Center.  

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa. 

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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