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Congress & ag groups say action is needed on carriers denying exports

A group of bipartisan Senators is asking the chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission to investigate if agricultural commodities are being denied carriers at ports.

The Senators say if the carriers are returning to their origin with empty containers rather than accepting U.S. agriculture and forestry exports, it not only exacerbates port congestion, but potentially violates the Shipping Act as an unjust and unreasonable practice.

The letter was sent by U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), along with more than 20 others including Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

During this week’s Commodity Classic, USDA trade official Jason Hafemeister told farmers they are also asking the Commission to address the situation even if it means legal action.

“This is not an area where there is much U.S. regulatory oversight so there’s no easy solution in the short-term,” he says.  “It appears to be a COVID buying pattern phenomenon that the market is still trying to straighten out.”

Last week, more than 70 ag groups requested President Biden take action on ocean container carriers denying exports to Asia.  They say refusals and charges by carriers dramatically increase costs to exporters, making foreign sales inefficient and uneconomical, and render farmers and processors unreliable suppliers to the global supply chain.

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