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USDA and Seattle and Tacoma ports enhance ag export ‘pop up’ site

As part of enhancing access to a 49-acre “pop up” site devoted to ag exports, the Agriculture Department said it would pay up to $400 per container to help cover the additional logistical costs of pre-positioning containers with U.S.-grown agricultural commodities at the site. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also called on ocean carriers on Friday to offer better service to agricultural exporters rather than carrying empty containers to Asia.

The partnership between the Northwest Seaport Alliance and USDA would enhance the pop-up site to accept either dry agricultural goods or refrigerated containers for temporary storage while they wait to be loaded onto ships. The alliance manages container, breakbulk, automobile, and some bulk terminals in the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, the fourth-largest U.S. container gateway.

Farm groups and ag exporters have complained for months that ocean shippers are reluctant to load containers filled with U.S. goods when they are offered large sums to deliver empty containers to Asian terminals. On the day before the partnership was announced, the seaport alliance reported an 11% increase in imports of full containers and a 24% decrease in full-container exports in February. The USDA said agricultural exports were down 30% in the final six months of 2021.

The USDA said it would pay $200 per dry container and $400 per refrigerated container to agricultural companies and cooperatives that pre-position containers filled with U.S.-grown agricultural commodities at the pop-up site at the port of Seattle. It has a similar partnership with the port of Oakland.

The USDA said it “continues to seek opportunities to partner with additional ports or other inter-modal container facilities to help American farmers and agricultural producers move their product to market and manage the short-term challenges while pressing the ocean carriers to restore better levels of service.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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