Over 100 House members sent a letter to the chair of the Federal Maritime Commission Tuesday, expressing concerns about carriers declining to ship U.S. agriculture exports from U.S. ports. They called for the commission to expedite its fact finding and consideration of enforcement options, as well as provide monthly reports.

“Over the past year, American producers, exporters, and entire economic sectors have grappled with widespread delays, bottlenecks, and increasing fees at our ports,” the letter notes. “These challenges are exacerbated by reports that VOCCs (vessel-operating common carriers) are delivering shipments to U.S. ports and then electing to leave without refilling empty containers with American goods for export. Such activity constricts entire supply chains and propels trade to move only in an inbound direction. These conditions are unsustainable for exporters, put significant strain on the U.S. economy, and simply unacceptable.”

“These troubling reports of VOCCs refusing to ship U.S. exports at our ports must be investigated swiftly, and have consequences if misconduct is revealed,” said Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb. “This issue does not stop just at our ports on the coast, it also poses a dangerous threat all along the supply chain of perishable products that begin across the Midwest in states like Nebraska.”

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said it is “critical that we resolve supply chain issues “so our producers can quickly ship healthy, nutritious food around the world. This letter sends a strong bipartisan message to quickly investigate and resolve any issues that impact our economy and ability to feed the world.”

In March 2020, the Federal Maritime Commission launched Fact Finding No. 29, “International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement,” to investigate all the congestion, bottlenecks, and fees seen at our ports. In November, Fact Finding No. 29 was expanded to include reports of the decline to ship American exports.

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