"We’re exporting air" Sen. Amy Klobuchar ‘s bill to help supply chain crisis
(ABC 6 News) – Legislation introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D- Minnesota) aims to help local farmers get their product off of U.S. shores and onto shipping boats to ease global supply chain strain.
Exporters say this legislation isn’t a silver bullet – meaning they do not believe it will fix everything – but it’s a good start. Sen. Klobuchar said in a Senate committee hearing Thursday that she hopes to regulate ocean carriers that have actually profited from the supply chain crisis.
"It’s estimated that the container shipping industry made a record $190 billion profit in 2021 — a sevenfold increase from the previous year," Klobuchar said.
Many exporters are left wondering how, after ongoing supply chain issues.
"This isn’t because of increase performance we know that because we’ve heard all these complaints of our peoples’ stuff not getting shipped," Klobuchar added.
She said that ocean carriers are charging U.S. exporters extra fees to ship their product out with little reason or chance to challenge the fee.
"They carry so much market power that some fear retaliation for speaking out."
The Ocean Shipping Reform Act asks the Federal Maritime Commission to keep ocean carriers from leaving U.S. shipping containers behind on the docks after dropping off imports. It also gives the Commission more power to set new restrictions on what ocean carriers can charge.
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association endorses the bill and explained how ocean carriers impact local soybean farmers.
"The shipping companies are going to have to make a special stop — usually at a port in Vietnam or another place where they may not be picking up a lot of goods. They’re not wanting to take those, but our growers don’t have any other way to get those soybeans to those markets," Joe Smentek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, explained.
The carriers will bring in goods from other countries like China, and then refuse to pick up soybeans from U.S. docks on their way out.
"We’d rather export those products rather than exporting air which is what we’re doing now," Smentek said.
Those soybeans or other products are left on the dock, they rot and become un-sellable altogether.
"The growers are losing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars," he added.
The Senate Commerce Committee heard the bill Thursday. Its next step is the Senate floor. The bill also has bipartisan support, so Sen. Klobuchar is hopeful it will reach President Joe Biden’s desk.