ARLINGTON, VA – In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the US Dairy Export Council and National Milk Producers Federation recommended steps that would provide supply chain relief and support to dairy farmers and exporters.

The recommendations included the restarting of the USDA’s Ocean Shipping Container Availability Report, as well as interagency collaboration to enhance capacity at ports and incentivizing carriers to load export cargo.

“Supply chain challenges have cost US dairy exporters over $1.5 billion last year alone,” said Krysta Harden, president and chief executive officer of USDEC. “We are incredibly grateful for the administration’s ongoing efforts and creative solutions, particularly for the development of ‘pop-up’ sites for agricultural exporters to source empty containers. The additional recommendations submitted (April 21) 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 USDEC and NMPF stated reissuing the OSCAR would give companies the ability to know where available ocean shipping containers are located throughout the US.

The letter also recommended establishing inland “pop-up” terminal yards like the ones utilized in Oakland and Seattle in non-coastal hubs such as Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Salt Lake City and Kansas City. Doing so, the letter detailed, would provide greater access to containers and improve the ability to secure vessel accommodations.

“Shipping containers for US 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.”

Mulhern thanked the USDA and DOT for focusing on the supply chain problems.

“As congestion continues, so too must the spectrum of tools deployed to address these challenges,” he said, adding the letter highlighted the steps that would ensure US dairy farmers aren’t losing a long-term international market share.

Other recommendations included:

• Developing a “fast lane” concept to incentivize the flow of agriculture exports into and from ports, a plan that would include trucking lanes at port terminals.

• Incentivizing ocean carriers to load more export containers, instead of empty containers, through preferred or prioritized access.

• Real-time tracking of containers as part of the administration’s Freight Logistics Optimization Works initiative.

• Piloting projects with carriers for “dual turns” of containers, wherein containers delivering imports to an inland location may be provided directly to an export-focused shipper, instead of being sent back empty to the port.