Farmers and ranchers, like many Americans, face enormous challenges right now. From drought to inflation and rising input costs to supply chain bottlenecks. We’ve been asking our elected officials to step in and get our supply chains moving again. And they just took a big step to do so.
I was honored to be invited to the White House to represent America’s farmers and ranchers as President Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act into law. After nearly a year of bipartisan work, these reforms are the first the shipping industry has seen in almost a quarter of a century. This legislation is a positive step that should help alleviate the shipping headaches many farmers have faced for the past couple of years. Some estimates suggest that we’ve lost $25 billion in ag exports because of shipping challenges. Many of those losses occurred as perishable agriculture products rotted at ports while empty containers left the U.S. to be filled with goods elsewhere.
We hope that members of Congress can continue working together to solve many other challenging issues facing farm country, from the lack of labor to water infrastructure and the rising cost to farm.
Before the pandemic, containers arrived from around the world full of goods American consumers wanted and relied upon. Farmers, ranchers, and other companies that needed to export their products would load them up before sending them back to the port to be exported. But because of economic shocks that have disrupted supply chains, the cost to ship a container has increased more than 1000% since January of 2020. Instead of delivering food to consumers around the world, it had to wait as shippers make more money by quickly sending empty containers back to ports in Asia that would bring back consumer goods rather than take the extra days to load agricultural products. While these shippers get the privilege of calling on American ports and it might be best for their bottom line, it can lead to disaster for many farms, ranchers, and other American companies. It also further complicates an already strained global food supply.
Now, the Federal Maritime Commission can hold ocean shippers accountable and help ensure that American consumers get the products they need from other countries and that consumers worldwide get the food, fiber and fuel we work hard to raise every day. We take pride in stocking America’s pantries and addressing hunger around the globe, and this law will help us do both.
What’s important to recognize is how members of both parties set aside their differences to deliver solutions for America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers. While farmers and ranchers bring most Americans around the table to share a meal, agriculture also brings members of Congress to the table to find solutions. During a time of incredible partisan division, we’re grateful that our elected officials could see past their differences and put us on a path to solving one of the issues we face. America needs more bipartisan cooperation, and hopefully, this legislation was just the start.
We hope that members of Congress can continue working together to solve many other challenging issues facing farm country, from the lack of labor to water infrastructure and the rising cost to farm. Their work on the Ocean Shipping Reform Act has delivered the roadmap to bipartisan success. Farmers and ranchers stand ready to join lawmakers at the table to develop solutions that work for everyone.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.