The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will discuss challenges and opportunities related to overall port congestion, with a special emphasis on agricultural exports, at its meeting this week.
The Board will hear from port officials and agricultural stakeholders as well as trucking, maritime and retail industry representatives. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. via GoToWebinar.
“As we continue to experience congestion and delays at California ports, we need to look at collaborative solutions, ” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “All parties, including agriculture, port authorities, shipping lines, trucking companies and others share a commitment to expand trade by moving products efficiently and effectively through a robust goods movement infrastructure. Collectively, I believe that we can find short and long term opportunities to improve freight transportation.”
Invited speakers include: Eugene Seroka, California Association of Port Authorities and the Port of Los Angeles; Weston LaBar, Harbor Trucking Association; Mike Jacob, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association; Peter Friedmann, Agricultural Transportation Coalitioneg
; Rayne Thompson, Sunkist Growers; John Larrea, California League of Food Producers; Steve McCarthy, California Retailers Association; Frank Ramirez, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development; Erick Fredericks, California Department of Transportation and other invited speakers.
“As the nation’s largest agricultural exporter, California’s farmers, ranchers and food processors rely significantly on our freight infrastructure,” said President Don Cameron, California State Board of Food and Agriculture. “Port congestion is not a new issue, but our current situation is amplified by the pandemic and its ripple effect within the overall marketplace.”
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The Board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials; agricultural representatives; and citizens to discuss current issues and concerns to California agriculture.
This meeting will have simultaneous audio translation in Spanish and can be accessed at (844) 460-0074 at the start of the meeting.
Letter to Buttigieg
The meeting comes after the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance joined nearly 300 agricultural and forest product associations and companies – including several SSGA members – last week in signing on to a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging immediate intervention to remedy the situation.
“We need action now,” the letter states, “not additional studies.”
SSGA agrees, as U.S. exporters and their access to foreign markets must be protected.
The letter requests that the Department of Transportation assist the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) “in expediting its enforcement options” and “consider its existing authorities” to determine how it can assist U.S. exporters and the ag producers they serve in their transportation needs.
For more than six months, U.S. ag exporters, including SSGA members who supply Identity Preserved 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.
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. SSGA and other associations have previously supported FMC’s investigation into these practices.
It has been estimated that $1.5 billion in ag exports has been lost during this crisis, which has come on the heels of a pandemic that has also severely injured the market.
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.
Copies of the letter were also sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and leadership of the Senate and House transportation committees. The letter can be found here.