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Cash Market Moves             05/10 11:16

   Container Crisis Continues to Plague US Ag Exporters

   For over six months, U.S.  exporters relying on container shipments have 
been suffering unreasonable practices by ocean carriers.

Mary Kennedy
DTN Basis Analyst

   Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA), on their website, recently wrote 
that, "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."

   During that time, shippers have asked the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) 
and President Joe Biden to intervene on their behalf:

   SSGA said that 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."

   In an April 19 meeting, USDA convened a meeting with representatives of U.S. 
agricultural products and leadership from the United States Department of 
Transportation (DOT) to discuss current issues surrounding shipping U.S. 
agricultural exports, as well as logistical and technical concerns. 
Participants included a wide range of agriculture 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 was led jointly by USDA Chief of Staff Katharine Ferguson and 
DOT Senior Advisor Carlos Monje, the key point of contact for Secretary 
Buttigieg on this issue.

   In a press release about that meeting, USDA noted that 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. "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 U.S, moving nearly a 
third of containerized agricultural exports by volume, have experienced the 
worst disruption," said USDA.

   "Export challenges began in the fall of 2020 and have escalated to include a 
broad range of impacted commodities and port regions. Demand in consumer trade 
has led to a supply crisis in the availability of shipping containers, while 
refrigeration challenges, lack of certainty in fee structures and booking 
policy inconsistencies have all made export of agricultural products more 
difficult for U.S. producers," USDA added. "For far too long, farmers have 
struggled to find a market for their products and get a fair price for their 
hard work. 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. 
USDA will continue to serve as a key facilitator and voice for American 
agriculture on this very important issue."

   The DOT team highlighted current efforts underway at their department and 
committed to work with the Federal Maritime Commission and others to help 
mitigate these issues facing U.S. agriculture.

   On April 27, SSGA joined nearly 300 agricultural and forest product 
associations and companies, including several SSGA members, in signing on to a 
letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging immediate 
intervention to remedy the situation.

   "We need action now, not additional studies," noted the letter. "We ask the 
DOT to assist the Commission in expediting its enforcement options. 
Additionally, we urge the DOT to consider its existing authorities to determine 
how it can assist with the transportation needs of the U.S. exporters and the 
farmers and ranchers they serve, in overcoming the current challenges in 
shipping goods and products."

   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. "Our members, allies and partners at the Agriculture Transportation 
Coalition have specific measures to propose and are requesting the opportunity 
to present them," said SSGA.

   Here is a copy of the letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete 

   Mary Kennedy can be reached at

   Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

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