As U.S. senators representing Minnesota and South Dakota, we know how crucial it is for American businesses to be able to export throughout the country and across the globe. American farmers feed the world, and consumers and businesses look to them for in-demand agricultural goods like soybeans, corn, dairy, poultry, pork, and beef, just to name a few. And American manufacturers support so many of the essential parts and products that fill our homes, businesses, and store shelves.
We need to get our supply chain moving again. Americans don’t want to walk into the grocery store wondering if the items on their shopping list are on the shelf or stuck in transit — and they don’t want to pay inflated prices for the goods they need. U.S. businesses have to be able to get their goods out the door and into people’s homes.
Like many of you, we were alarmed by reports showing that foreign-owned ocean carriers are making it more difficult and more expensive to ship goods. We were also alarmed to see critical exports like grain being left at U.S. ports while these international ocean carriers return to Asia with empty containers.
We've heard from U.S. companies that have only been able to ship 60 percent of their orders because they can’t access shipping containers. We need to get exports to those who need them, but it’s plainly obvious that the ocean carriers are prioritizing non-American shipments at the expense of both American consumers and American exporters. That isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t acceptable.
Since the pandemic began, these companies have also quadrupled the cost of shipping containers, and many U.S. exporters have been slapped with unexpected and often illegitimate fees with no easy way to dispute the charges.
In the last two years, agricultural exporters lost at least 22% of foreign sales, yet carriers are posting record profits, bringing in two-or-three-times the revenue they predicted. It may be good for their international owners, but it’s bad for American producers.
It’s time to stop hoping the carriers decide to play fair.
That’s why we worked across the aisle to put forth a solution: the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. Our bill protects American manufacturers and farmers by making it harder for ocean carriers to refuse to ship ready-to-export goods waiting at our ports. It also builds on the success of past reform legislation to ensure the ocean shipping market remains free, fair, accessible, and competitive.
This bipartisan legislation would make a huge difference for our agricultural communities, manufacturers, and small businesses that have been impacted by these harmful practices. Our common-sense bill is supported by groups across the spectrum, including the American Association of Port Authorities, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, and the National Retail Federation.
The bottom line is this: Minnesota and South Dakota exporters need to be able to get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price. We’re committed to getting it signed into law because whether you live in Sioux Falls, Saint Paul, or anywhere in the world, you should be able to buy American-made products.