Earlier this week, the House of Representatives sent the Ocean Shipping Reform Act to President Biden for signature. Agriculture groups responded positively, heralding the legislation that improves the oversight of ocean shipping. Supporters of the legislation say the bill will address many maritime disruptions obstructing the import and export of U.S. products at American ports over the past several years.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act would:

  • Stop international ocean carriers from unreasonably declining American cargo, as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking.
  • Direct the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean carriers’ business practices and apply enforcement measures.
  • Shift the burden of proof regarding overcharging certain fees, called “demurrage and detention” charges, from the complainant to the international ocean carriers to help level the playing field and improve the FMC’s enforcement capacity.
  • Improve transparency of movement of U.S. agricultural and other exports by requiring international ocean carriers to report to the FMC regarding how many empty containers are being transported.
  • Stop retaliation by international shipping companies against exporters and importers.
  • Formally establish the FMC Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services to improve the complaint and investigation process for American businesses seeking assistance from the FMC.
  • Improve management of chassis, the specialized trailer used to transport ocean containers over the road, by authorizing the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to collect data on dwell times for chassis and include a National Academy of Sciences study on best practices of chassis management.
  • Provide the FMC with temporary emergency authority to collect data during times of emergency congestion, among other improvements.

“Consumers are tired of higher prices and farmers are tired of skyrocketing shipping costs,” said Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. “Some products have been left at the docks to rot. That’s why we passed this bill to give the Federal Maritime Commission the tools it needs to cut down on extraneous shipping costs and stop shipping carriers from leaving American products like apples, hay, milk and potatoes behind.”

“AFBF appreciates lawmakers for working together to pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act," noted American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "Record-high shipping costs and delayed access to containers have worsened supply chain issues and limited exports at a time when the world is calling on America’s farmers to meet growing demand. Some estimates suggest we’ve lost out on more than $25 billion in agricultural exports over the past six months because of ocean shipping constraints. That’s unacceptable. Limited trade has also made it more difficult to import supplies like fertilizer, which increases costs to farmers and ultimately hurts all families through higher grocery bills.

“I was pleased to team up with President Biden to urge passage and look forward to him quickly signing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act into law so farmers and ranchers can continue to meet the needs of families in America and overseas.”

"USMEF thanks both houses of Congress for their strong bipartisan support of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, and we look forward to final approval by President Biden," said U.S Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "In these times of rising input costs, it has never been more important to maximize the value of our agricultural products, and the best way to do that is to ensure access to the international marketplace. This legislation takes important steps forward in improving the shipping services available to U.S. exporters.

“The problems at our ports include delays of shipments of American-made goods to overseas trading partners due to the unreasonable practices of foreign-owned ocean carriers,” said Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the North American Meat Institute. “These delays are a huge cost to meat and poultry companies as their perishable products await transport.”

"Carriers are declining or cancelling export cargo bookings, while frequent ship delays and cancellations with little or no notice to exporters are delaying shipments by weeks or even months," she continued. "The resulting inability of shippers to deliver their products on schedule affects the reliability of American exports, and decreases export values and market share."

“Undue burden to our food system and supply chain has been lessened today with the passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which maintains fair ocean carrier practices," said National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Ted McKinney . Today’s actions couldn’t have come at a more needed time for the United States and the world as changes from the Ocean Shipping Reform Act will enable more U.S. agricultural products to reach the global marketplace."
“NASDA also thanks Congress for working together in a bipartisan fashion to swiftly pass and provide solutions through the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.”

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