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Helping South Dakotans Deliver

By Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

June 17, 2022

Record-high inflation and supply chain bottlenecks are driving up prices and hitting South Dakota’s economy particularly hard. While it’s true that supply chain issues and the reopening of economies after COVID shutdowns contributed somewhat to inflationary pressures, a big reason for our current inflation crisis is too much spending on Democrat priorities in Washington. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for the inflation crisis, but, in addition to stopping wasteful and unnecessary spending, there are actions we can take to lessen the blow.


For more than a year now, foreign-flagged ocean carriers have been playing games with American agriculture exports. Businesses from Strider Bikes in Rapid City to Valley Queen Cheese in Milbank have been experiencing port delays, equipment access issues, and declined bookings for months. These delays have a significantly negative impact on our state’s economy. Last year, more than 2 million pounds of South Dakota lactose was sold and ready to ship, but it sat for months in Valley Queen’s warehouse waiting for an empty container to become available. On top of that, the National Milk Producers Federation estimates that export supply chain challenges cost the U.S. dairy sector nearly $1 billion in the first six months of 2021. 


South Dakota farmers and ranchers feed and fuel the world, and consumers and businesses look to them for in-demand agricultural goods. American manufacturers support many of the essential parts and products that fill our homes, businesses, and store shelves. In the last two years, agricultural exporters lost at least 22 percent of foreign sales, yet carriers continue to report record profits, bringing in two-or-three-times the revenue they predicted. Many ag exporters in the state have also been dealing with increased costs to ship goods overseas and the effects of shipping container delays and cancelations. South Dakota businesses – especially small businesses, which have fewer resources to fight supply chain problems – are also struggling to meet the demands of their customers.


After unanimously passing in the U.S. Senate, our bipartisan, bicameral Ocean Shipping Reform Act made its way through the U.S. House of Representatives where it recently passed with strong, bipartisan support. With the help of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), our critical legislation that will help ease supply chain pressures, particularly at our nation’s ports, is now the law of the land.


The Ocean Shipping Reform Act is the strongest fix to our maritime laws in a generation. The legislation will strengthen the authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) by providing it with new tools to help level the playing field for American exporters and counteract anticompetitive behavior. The bill will also help FMC more efficiently resolve disputes between ocean carriers and shippers, while also taking actions at the U.S. Department of Transportation to alleviate strain across the supply chain.


Our legislation will help ease supply chain pressures by addressing unfair ocean carrier practices, speeding up the resolution of disputes over carrier fees, and improving the movement of goods at our nation’s ports. It won’t solve our nation’s inflation crisis, but it should help make life easier for U.S. exporters, importers, and consumers alike. Our bill isn’t a silver bullet, but help is on the way.


Finding common ground in Washington is no easy feat, and we are grateful that the House and Senate came to an agreement on these important reforms to our nation’s shipping laws. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act proves that Congress can still do big things in a bipartisan way. We are proud to show that South Dakotans know how to work across the aisle and deliver meaningful results for our country at a time when we need it the most.