The dairy industry is asking the Biden administration to take additional steps to address difficulties in getting containers full of U.S. ag commodities on ocean-going vessels.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation say they are grateful for actions already taken, such as new “pop-up sites” to provide empty containers to ag exporters, but that more needs to be done. 

“Supply chain challenges have cost U.S. dairy exporters over $1.5 billion last year alone,” said USDEC CEO Krysta Harden in a statement released Thursday. “The additional recommendations submitted today would provide agricultural exporters much needed insight into container availability and provide avenues to incentivize carriers to load outbound shipments to key dairy markets around the world.”

The groups, in a letter sent Thursday to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, are asking for several actions at ports, including giving “preferred or prioritized berthing access” to incoming ships if they agree to load containers of ag commodities instead of leaving with empty containers – as many have been doing.

USDEC and NMPF are also asking for “fast lanes” at ports “to incentivize the flow of agriculture exports into and from ports. This would include trucking lanes at port terminals that are dedicated to the expeditious delivery of perishable agriculture goods to ports.”

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Furthermore, they are asking USDA to set up more pop-up terminals similar to ones it has already erected in Oakland and Seattle as well as resume a discontinued report called the Ocean Shipping Container Availability Report to “detail the availability of ocean shipping containers at locations throughout the United States.”

“Shipping containers for U.S. dairy exports continue to be in short supply at coastal ports, and even more scarce at inland locations,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “These essential links in the global supply chain must be available to American dairy exporters throughout the country in order to ship their products to overseas buyers.”