The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council are pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement to offer additional support to American agriculture exporters through the new Commodity Container Assistance Program.
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The initiative will provide funding from the Farm Service Agency to exporters to reduce the costs of sourcing containers at the Oakland and Seattle-Tacoma ‘pop-up’ port locations.

“Dairy producers and other agriculture exporters have been clamoring for relief from these ocean shipping challenges for nearly two years,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “While we continue to seek solutions from the carriers and from Congress, these steps by USDA demonstrate their understanding of our industry’s challenges. We feel they are positive, focused investments that will offer immediate relief to our dairy exporting cooperatives.”

“We are grateful to see Secretary Vilsack and USDA taking a leadership role in addressing these port and ocean freight challenges that dairy producers are facing. I am impressed with the speed and innovative approach with which USDA has moved this pop-up concept into operation,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “We will continue working with USDA and its interagency partners in pursuing solutions to the supply chain challenges that impact the bottom line of dairy exporters and the U.S. workers and foreign consumers who rely upon American dairy exports.”

As port terminal operations have become congested and ocean carriers have prioritized shipping empty containers back to Asia from west coast ports, agriculture exporters have struggled to obtain containers from the carriers, to secure reliable vessel bookings, and to overcome obstacles to delivering goods to the ports to meet vessel departures timelines. The pop-up sites are intended to offer off-terminal locations for empty container storage, increasing access for agriculture shippers to use them and freeing up port terminal space for freight operations. At the pop-up sites, exporters can transload their commodities into the containers (both dry and reefer) and store them on property until the vessel booking earliest return dates are announced, enabling more efficient drayage delivery to the ports. The FSA’s payments will help to cover the costs of moving the containers between the ports and the pop-up yards, as well as the storage at the pop-up site.

NMPF and USDEC are working with USDA to identify key port locations, including at inland terminals, to replicate the pop-up initiative.

The signature of the EU–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today – the last day of the French EU Presidency – is announced as a landmark in the five-year long process of negotiations so far.

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