West Coast port negotiations in question, ag exports on the line

Negotiations surrounding West Coast ports are creating uncertainty in the U.S. supply chain and the agriculture industry is watching for a resolution.

Progress is unclear as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association released differing statements over a potential agreement Thursday. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said it has reached a tentative agreement on some key issues, while the Pacific Maritime Association said although there has been significant progress, several issues remain.  

Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition tells Brownfield they want both parties to come to an agreement on their own, but the impasse has stretched out too long.

“So, we are certainly encouraging our national leadership to be very engaged.  We don’t have the ability just to allow this to proceed ad infinitum (without end) and have a detrimental impact on agriculture and the broader economy. That should not be allowed.”

Speaking to farm broadcasters earlier this week in Washington D.C., U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted his involvement.  

“I’m in pretty frequent contact with the different parties there, urging them to come to a solution so there is less of that uncertainty that can affect our exporters in particular,” he says.  

Steenhoek says one of the biggest threats to agriculture is the significant amount of meat and poultry exports that are shipped via refrigerated container through West Coast ports in route to Asian customers. 

According to ILWU, the agreement that’s being negotiated covers more than 22,000 longshore workers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports.

Brownfield’s Amie Simpson and Carah Hart contributed to this story.

Brownfield interview with Mike Steenhoek

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