Working on Solving America’s Supply Chain Challenge

American supply-chain issues continue making shipping U.S. agricultural products overseas a challenge. Agri-Pulse and the National Press Club brought together several industry stakeholders for a recent panel discussion on the topic. Andrew Hwang is the manager of business development and international marketing with the Port of Oakland. The port is putting aside a large tract of its land that will be dedicated only to agricultural shipments.

“As a port authority, we can only control what we can control, and we do believe that the terms are congested, partially, because there are a lot of empties sitting on the terminals waiting to get re-exported back out Asia. This is causing congestion on the terminal and an inability for the empties to be returned. The facility that we are proposing will actually and effectively expand the size of the terminal and allow those empties to come in and free up those chassis. So, what we are doing here is to give the exporter the ability to pick up empty containers when they need to, in a quicker fashion, so they can load.”

Hwang says they’re trying to get products moving in and out of the port much more efficiently.

“As cutoffs from the ocean carriers move and also the windows for receiving get compressed, I think one of the things that we’re trying to do is just create velocity for the exporters to be able to get as much cargo as they can into the terminal during those open periods. And that, at the end of the day, is the ultimate goal. We do hope that the carriers will continue to take as much export-laden cargo as they can to help the US exporters.”

One big part of the supply chain challenges is vaccine mandates on truckers in both Canada and the United States. Jon Eisen of the intermodal carriers conference for the American Truckers Association says the vaccine mandates are a challenge in getting product moving between the countries.

“There’s no question that the vaccine mandates between the United States and Canada right now are creating difficulty. workforce issues. I mentioned in my in my opening that workforce issues are critical when you’re taking individuals out of the workforce or making it so that they cannot cross the border because of their vaccine status. Obviously, that makes it much more difficult for trade to happen, so there’s no question that we’re seeing the impact of the mandate right now between the two countries. So yes, reducing trade is not something we’re in favor of.”

Cargo carriers are making record profits despite the supply chain issues. Mike Durkin is the President and CEO of Leprino Foods, headquartered in Denver, Colorado. He’s also the Vice-Chair of the International Dairy Foods Association’s Cheese Board. The IDFA is talking with shippers about the challenges and there may be some solutions ahead, but they have to happen sooner than later.

“We see the information too, so we know they’re making a lot of money. We’ve had several conversations, again USDEEC, IDFA as well Gene Seroka, who heads up the LA port, and through those individuals, we’ve had group discussions with the individual carriers out there, so they are coming to the table. The question is going to be are the solutions real, tangible, and I talked about the short term, where we need to see an impact here in the next six-to-twelve months? I think they’re coming to the table, they’re offering several suggestions, and I feel like we’re starting to get some traction.”

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