The USDA continues to invest in major port improvements

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans June 16 to increase capacity for exporting refrigerated and frozen agricultural commodities at the Port of Houston in Houston, Texas, to improve service to shippers of US agricultural issues. In addition, the USDA announced an expansion of its existing partnership with the Northwest Seaport Alliance to increase access to a 40-acre “pop-up” site.

USDA is working with the Port of Houston to lease additional chassis that will position and store containers and await the arrival of ships, allowing the port to fully utilize its refrigerated shipping or “reefer” container capacity. The USDA takes measures to increase the capacity for US agricultural exports and ensure that delays or insufficient capacities do not restrict exports. The port of Houston is the public port, which revolves over two thirds of the container loads of the Gulf of Mexico-the sixth largest container gateway in the United States.

The NWSE pop-up site accepts either dry agricultural or refrigerated containers for temporary storage at NWSA in Tacoma to reduce operational hurdles and costs, allowing for faster loading onto ships at export terminals. This announcement builds on the existing partnership with the NWSA in the Port of Seattle announced on March 18th. The NWSA encompasses the naval cargo operations of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma and is the fourth largest container gateway in the United States.

„Amerikanische Landwirte und Viehzüchter sind auf ein zuverlässiges und effizientes Transportsystem angewiesen, um ihre Produkte auf den Markt zu bringen“, sagt Vilsack. “As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s creative approaches to improving port operations, we are working with supply chain partners to adapt and address farming challenges. USDA is pleased to announce the partnership with the port of Houston and the extended cooperation with NWSA in order to further reduce the overload of the ports. Through these investments, we continue to fulfill our promise to strengthen the supply chain and support foods and fibers grown in America. ”

Port of Houston

At the beginning of this year, Port Houston teamed up with the Frozen Protein Shipping Alliance to implement measures to cope with the effects on the supply chain. The program announced by the USDA will help improve service for shippers of US grown soft commodities and others.

Foreign sales of U.S. poultry, beef and pork through the Port of Houston were half a billion dollars in 2021, but millions of sales are at risk due to the limited availability of equipment, particularly chassis, at the port to move reefer containers and to position while we await the arrival of the ships. The American agricultural sector, particularly the meat industry, has raised significant concerns in response to these restrictions, particularly as challenges have shifted from West Coast ports to Gulf and East ports. These effects affect the entire supply chain and affect not only exporters, but also producers in countries throughout the south and southwest.

“This new program will help to better tailor the chassis offer to the memory question,” says Roger Guenther, Executive Director of Port Houston.

Agricultural products in refrigerated containers are typically stored on trolleys at the Port of Houston’s roll-off container facilities. Unfortunately, chassis have been in short supply for the past two years, reducing the port’s capacity to handle chilled or frozen agricultural exports. As the port prepares for a longer-term investment in a rack system, the lack of a dedicated chassis pool at this time has forced the port to “ground” reefer containers. This decision, made out of necessity, increases inefficiency due to the extra time and steps required to move refrigerated containers off and onto chassis before they are placed on the ship. In addition, the current electrical system of plugs with grounded receptacles is only half as efficient because fewer plugs are accessible. At the same time, ongoing problems in the supply chain are making it difficult to switch to short-term chassis rental.

Using the Commodity Credit Corporation funds, which were made available for coping with market disorders in September 2021, the Agricultural Marketing Service will be 50 % of the costs for the acquisition and leasing of chassis in the port of Houston in the first year of its five -year lease of another 1,060 cover chassis. The USDA funding will help manage the risk of the investment and ensure the port can make full use of its current reefer container capacity and avoid the risk of refusing or delaying exports. According to the USDA, this partnership will ensure that agricultural companies and cooperatives can export their goods through the port and avoid costly delays or capacity shortages.

Northwest Seaport Alliance

Congestion-related impacts on ship schedules and prioritization of returning containers empty in Asia have significantly increased barriers to exporting containerized agricultural commodities, resulting in lost markets and disappointed customers. The Northwest Seaport Alliance recorded a nearly 30% decline in exports of agricultural commodities in the last six months of 2021, and the ratio of loaded and empty container exports has shifted to mostly empty containers since May 2021.

In Tacoma, a 40-acre “pop-up” site near a dock facility will be used to accommodate either dry agricultural or reefer containers for temporary storage at NWSA in Tacoma to reduce operational hurdles and costs to load containers onto ships faster can be sent to the export terminals.

“Over the past year, the Northwest Seaport Alliance has worked closely with agricultural exporters to mitigate supply chain challenges,” said Ryan Calkins, co-chair of the NWSA and president of the Port of Seattle Commission. “We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s leadership and look forward to this pilot program that will lower costs for agricultural producers and help bring more U.S. exports to foreign markets.”

“In partnership with PCMC, the NWSA has opened more than 150 acres of storage near our port to reduce port congestion and increase export opportunities,” added Deanna Keller, Executive Member of the NWSA and Vice President of the Port of Tacoma Commission. added. „Die Partnerschaft mit Das USDA wird unsere Bemühungen vorantreiben und den landwirtschaftlichen Erzeugern in unserer Region die nötige Erleichterung verschaffen.“

FSA payments available

The Farm Service Agency will make payments of $200 per dry container and $400 per reefer container to cover the additional logistical costs of transporting the container twice, first to the staging location and then to the terminal that loads the ship, as well as expenses for temporary loading storage. Der NWSA-„Pop-up“-Standort selbst benötigt keine USDA-Kostenbeteiligungsunterstützung, da dieser Standort bereits über Handhabungsgeräte und Kühlstecker verfügt.

The FSA will make monthly direct payments to qualifying agribusinesses and cooperatives per container using the Port of Tacoma based on the type of shipping container—stem-filled containers and reefer-filled containers. The site will have the ability to pre-chill refrigerated shipping containers to accommodate perishable goods.

To apply, applicants must complete Form FSA-862, Commodity Container Assistance Program (CCAP) Application in accordance with FSA-862 instructions and email the form to the FSA National Office [email protected]. Payments are made retrospectively and verified with terminal records. A unique Entity ID (12 alphanumeric characters assigned by SAM.gov) is required. Applicants who would like to receive payments by direct transfer must fill the Sam.Gov registration online at https://sam.gov/content/home and specify bank account information. Applicants may submit applications on a monthly basis, but all applications must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2023.

The FSA makes payments to eligible owners or designated sales agents of U.S. agricultural commodities based on the number of eligible shipping containers used from March 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022 by the Port of Oakland and NWSA to ship agricultural commodities to specific markets on container ships. Eligible commodities include agricultural commodities (other than tobacco) grown or produced in the United States for food, feed, or fiber, and products made from those commodities, including certain forestry products.

Visit the Fund Availability Notice for more information on eligibility and how to apply.

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