Supply Chains and Ocean Shipping Bill

Farm Bureau President Duvall Talks Supply Chain Issues With Biden, Urges Congress to Pass Ocean Shipping Reform Act

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Since the pandemic, and economic recovery, the supply chain challenges have become exacerbated for agricultural exporters trying to get goods onto cargo ships. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation spoke Wednesday with President Joe Biden on supply chain challenges facing farmers and called on Congress to complete final passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which could happen as early as next week.

Biden posted a video on his Twitter account Thursday (https://twitter.com/…) calling on Congress to pass the bill as well.

"One of the reasons prices have gone up is because a handful of companies who control the market have raised shipping costs by as much as 1,000%," Biden said. "It's outrageous -- and I'm calling on Congress to crack down on them."

Biden's video showed him talking with retail CEOs as well as AFBF President Zippy Duvall about shipping costs.

"We've got to change this," Biden said in the video, stressing the need to help bring down prices. "This won't solve it all, but it will solve a big piece of it."

Duvall said he had a "good discussion" with Biden on several issues, including the importance of the legislation to farmers.

"He wholeheartedly agreed that we must get past the bottleneck at our ports to get America back on the move, and that means breaking the logjam on Capitol Hill," Duvall said. "The president thanked farmers and ranchers for weighing in on the need for reform, and I assured him that we will continue pressing hard for passage of a final bill now that both Houses of Congress have cleared versions of it with overwhelming bipartisan support."

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act would give more authority to the Federal Maritime Commission to investigate delays and fees charged by ocean carriers. It also prohibits shippers from refusing cargo space or discriminating against exporters of goods such as agricultural products. The Senate passed the bill by a voice vote at the end of March. The House bill passed on a 364-60 vote last December.

"America's farmers and ranchers need the House and Senate to work together and get this bill across this finish line and make our ocean transportation system more competitive and efficient so we can continue putting dinner on the table for families in America and overseas," Duvall said.

The website The Maritime Executive and Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the House is now looking to take up the Senate version of the bill, considered a weaker version of the legislation, and possibly could get the bill to the president as early as next week. The House would take up the Senate bill simply to make it easier to get a final bill passed. The news site The Intercept noted a major difference between the House and Senate version is the House bill "outright forbids shipping companies from refusing to transport agricultural exports overseas, while the Senate version hands the regulatory decisions to the Federal Maritime Commission."

As DTN has reported, going back to at least 2020, ocean shippers have been consistently leaving agricultural goods at port and instead returning to China with empty containers to boost the speed of reloading goods in China to then return products to the U.S. The inability to get goods loaded onto outbound ships has cost U.S. agricultural exporters billions of dollars in lost sales, as well as costs waiting at port.

"Ongoing supply chain issues and record-high shipping costs have limited agricultural exports at a time when our trading partners need us more than ever," Duvall said. "As I told the president today, estimates suggest we've lost out on more than $25 billion in agricultural exports over the past six months due to ocean shipping constraints. That's unacceptable."

Still, U.S. agricultural exports for fiscal year 2022 are projected at a record $191 billion, according to USDA's latest forecast in May. China remains the biggest destination for farm projects, followed by Mexico and Canada. Ag imports are also projected to reach a record $180.5 billion as well. (https://www.ers.usda.gov/…)

Duvall said he also discussed the uncertainty facing farmers and ranchers due to skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer prices.

"President Biden assured me he knows farmers are hurting and he's interested in learning more. He invited me to bring some folks to the White House so we can roll up our sleeves and work together to address the challenges facing farmers and ranchers," Duvall said.

Also see "Oakland Port Offers Ag Export Solutions" from January: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Chris Clayton