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Senate Subcommittee Hearing Learns Impact of Port Disruptions on West Coast

Feb 11, 2015

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held a hearing this week on United States ports titled "Keeping Goods Moving." But the focus of the hearing was instead on how goods are not moving at all--having a negative impact on the transportation supply chain--due to labor negotiations affecting West Coast ports that have dragged on for more than 9 months with 29 ports shut down on February 7 and 8th. All ports have since reopened, but the stand off is posing a threat to U.S. agricultural exports including dairy. 

Last November, IDFA joined 60 business organizations in signing a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to “use all tools available to the federal government” to restore the ports to full operation while negotiations continue.

Agriculture industry members, including dairy businesses, have been experiencing delays of two to three weeks on chilled products because of backups at West Coast ports, including Long Beach and Los Angeles, two of the busiest in the country.

"We need to explore the policy options to support port growth and future volumes of freight to keep goods moving," Chairman Deb Fischer (R-NE) said during the hearing.

Four witnesses were called to testify: Norman Bessac, vice-president of International Sales for Cargill, Katie Farmer, vice president for Consumer Products for BNSF, Walter Kemmsies, chief economist for Moffat & Nicholo, and John Greuling, a board member for the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors.

“Any time you disappoint a customer it takes time to get their trust back,” Cargill’s Bessac testified, adding that some customers have already started to look elsewhere for goods. “With this delay, our Asian customers cannot count on a dependable supply of U.S. beef and pork, so they have started to cancel orders and are looking to suppliers in Chile, Australia and the European Union to meet their needs.”

In her “Dairy’s 2020 Vision” address to attendees at Dairy Forum 2015, IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton pointed to the need for a renewed focus on transportation and infrastructure as critical factors that must be effectively managed if the US is to “help feed the world’s estimated population of 9.6 billion people by 2050.”

“Food needs to be moved,” Tipton said.

For more information, contact Chelsee Woodey, Director of Legislative Affairs, or Beth Hughes, Director of International Affairs,

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