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Shipping Crisis Impacting US Dairy Exports


The National Milk Producers Federation is hosting its annual meeting this week in Las Vegas, with a focus on top issues for the dairy industry, including the ongoing shipping crisis.

Shawna Morris, NMPF and U.S. Dairy Export Council senior vice president for trade policy, says the crisis affects more than just products received in the United States, but exports of U.S. ag and dairy products as well.

“As much as all of us who buy so much that’s produced in Asia are focused on how do we buy on our store shelves the imported products, there’s a flip side of this issue as well. It’s how do we get our American made products to the foreign consumers that need them, food that feeds people across Asia, whether that’s cheese or milk powder or other products, and likewise need an outlet as well.”

Morris calls the shipping crisis an additional burden impacting all corners of the dairy industry.

“Our exporters have been dealing with a tremendous additional burden of trying to actually navigate the costs and time involved in getting product out the door. And of course, a lot of those are cooperatives that are farmer owned, so the impact is flowing down to the farmer level. This has gone on for so long, that it is quite clear that the market is not sorting itself out. The fact that the market is not improving, that things are not sorting themselves out and that we don’t seem to be around the corner of that anytime soon here really points to the need for more government interjection into this process through the legislative side and through the administration side to help deal with this and begin to sort things out.”

U.S. Dairy Export Federation Economists’ estimate that just through the first seven months of the year, the toll on the dairy industry was $7 billion, prompting concern of the long term impact the crisis may have on dairy exports.

“The longer-term consequences that we’re really concerned about is the reliability piece of this. As a lot of our foreign customers are eyeing, could they get things faster and more dependently from Europe from New Zealand, places that aren’t dealing with anywhere near the same level of supply chain challenges we are for their dairy exports, we get increasingly concerned about those foreign buyers, shifting to different sources. That hits, not just exporters, but ultimately impacts demand for U.S. dairy farmers milk.”

The Biden administration recently announced measures to reduce the shipping burden. Morris calls them a good first step.

“Some of the things we have seen done so far have been steps by the administration, for instance, to encourage expanded port hours, a move toward allowing more time for the system to clear and some creative thinking for instance. Rezoning for example, in some of the California ports to allow for higher stacking of containers. Allowing them to go four high instead of two high, certainly is a step in the right direction. And then on the congressional side, certainly one of the things we see as helpful was the introduction of legislation on the House side in August, the Ocean Shipping Reformat Act that would deal with some of the specific challenges exporters are dealing with, in particular with trying to move product out the door and dependability of costs as part of that process, but certainly we’re not there yet.”

Morris adds more needs to be done to ensure U.S. dairy exports get to their markets quickly and efficiently.”

“We definitely have been strongly encouraging the administration to take further steps to help make better usage of expanded hours, perhaps expansions of customs authorities, looking at what more we can do to ensure that we have truckers actually moving the product as effectively as we need to and that they’re able to move through the ports. We come back to the container storage issue. We still have a lot of challenges with where to simply put things. So, I think the administration continuing to look at these various distinct pieces in the process and putting together a multitude of those to say, well, this step here helps, and that step here helps, and by the time you begin to add enough of those together, then you’re actually generating progress.”

Learn more online at nmpf.org.

Source: NAFB News Service