.S. hog farmers are the world’s leading suppliers of high-quality, safe and affordable pork, annually shipping more than $7 billion to foreign destinations. However, recent shipping delays at U.S. international ports are disrupting exports. If not addressed soon, these disruptions could lead to serious bottlenecks for pork and other agriculture exports, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Jen Sorenson testified today before a House Transportation Subcommittee.
Like other sectors of the U.S. economy, U.S. pork relies on vessel-operating common carriers to ship product overseas. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated shipping issues, as the United States imported higher amounts of consumer goods, causing a backlog at the ports, explained Sorenson. The U.S. port backlog, overwhelming marine terminals and delaying ship arrivals and loading/unloading, is due to numerous factors, including congestion in and around the terminals and limited hours of operation. Additionally, Asian carriers are not shipping back as many fully loaded containers.
“Compounding the situation, carriers are failing to provide accurate notice to exporters of arrival/departure and cargo loading times, and then impose financial penalties on exporters for ‘missing’ those loading windows,” Sorenson testified. Those financial penalties, which are paid to the very carriers that are cancelling the orders, have been deemed unreasonable by the Federal Maritime Commission. “Ultimately, these additional costs are passed down the supply chain to farmers.”
All U.S. ports are experiencing shipping delays, but the West Coast is the most heavily impacted since it sends product to Asian-Pacific destinations. The Asia-Pacific region is one of U.S. pork’s top markets, due to its cultural preference for pork and recent trade agreements with China and Japan. “Shipping delays to the Asia-Pacific region are increasing costs and positioning the United States as an unreliable trading partner. If left unaddressed, this may also negatively impact future trade agreements with Southeast Asian trading partners as we seek better market access for U.S. pork,” she added.
Among recommendations to alleviate the port bottlenecks, Sorenson urged for expanded operating hours for U.S. ports, and expedited Federal Maritime Commission enforcement preventing unreasonable financial penalties for exporters.
“U.S. pork producers need Congress and the administration to work together to quickly engage and address these shipping delays, enabling hog farmers to continue to lead the way as a vibrant American farm sector that is critical to the rural and overall U.S. economy,” Sorenson concluded.
Sorenson’s testimony can be found HERE.