Senate Committee Advances Ocean Shipping Reform Act
A U.S. Senate committee this week approved legislation to facilitate the flow of freight at U.S. ports.
The Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday advanced by a voice vote the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The legislation now awaits full Senate consideration.
Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., called on senators to support the bill when Senate leaders announce a vote on the floor.
“These ocean shipping companies are making record profits,” Cantwell says. “They have made $150 billion in profits in 2021, and ocean import volume for the first quarter of this year is forecast to increase by more than 30%. Our farmers don’t want special treatment. They just don’t want to be exploited for the sake of record profits.”
Sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Thune, R-S.D., the bill targets the function of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). It would require carriers to issue certain reports to the commission each quarter and would authorize the commission to self-initiate certain investigations partly related to late fees. It also would pave the way for the registration of shipping exchanges, among other provisions.
“Congestion at ports and increased shipping costs pose unique challenges for U.S. exporters, who have seen the price of shipping containers increase four-fold in just two years, raising costs for consumers and hurting our businesses. Meanwhile, ocean carriers that are mostly foreign-owned have reported record profits,” Klobuchar says. “This legislation will help level the playing field for American exporters so they can get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price. Now that this bill has passed the commerce committee, it is one step closer to being signed into law.”
Dairy stakeholders including the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) praised lawmakers for moving on the legislation.
“On behalf of the U.S. dairy industry, I want to thank the Senate Commerce Committee for working in a bipartisan manner to move this important bill forward. I encourage the Senate to move expeditiously to vote on the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 so that companies across the dairy supply chain can begin to access new resources and important tools to address supply chain bottlenecks plaguing U.S. dairy and food exports. IDFA strongly encourages the Senate to pass this bill in a timely manner,” says Michael Dykes, president and CEO, IDFA.
“Through the IDFA Supply Chain Task Force and Dairy Exports Working Group, IDFA members and partners continue to look for long-term solutions to help U.S. dairy reach its full export potential,” Dykes adds. “Unlike 20 years ago when we exported very little, the U.S. dairy industry today is the third-largest dairy exporting nation in the world, selling 16% of our annual milk production to trading partners around the world. Preserving export routes and eliminating supply chain bottlenecks is absolutely essential to many businesses and employees across the United States who make nutritious, sustainable dairy foods.”
NMPF and USDEC note that approval of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) establishes Senate committee support for action to address shipping supply chain challenges as Congress prepares to commence conference procedures on the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation & Competition Act (USICA) and the House-passed America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act in the coming weeks. The House COMPETES Act includes the House-passed version of OSRA.
“(This week’s) action by the Senate Commerce Committee brings the Ocean Shipping Reform Act one step closer to passage,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF. “Export supply chain issues continue to pose immense challenges to dairy exporters, which is why this legislation remains so critical as part of a broad-based approach to tackling those problems. We urge the Senate and House to expeditiously advance the conference process and ensure that the final text includes a strong focus on the needs of American agricultural exporters.”
Krysta Harden, president and CEO, USDEC, adds that dairy exporters need the changes OSRA would deliver.
“As such, we encourage Congress to swiftly move the COMPETES/USICA conference work forward and send a bill that prioritizes the export shipping needs of U.S. agricultural exporters to the president’s desk,” Harden says.
The House recently passed its version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. House and Senate leaders have indicated they plan to have a final version of the bill in the coming weeks, news reports say.
NMPF and USDEC also praised an announcement last week of a new partnership between USDA and the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) aimed at easing port congestion and restoring more reliable shipping access for U.S. agricultural exporters (see “USDA partnership with NWSA seeks to ease port congestion” in last week’s issue of Cheese Market News).
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