By Anthony Monzon
Easing shipping backlogs and boosting American exports is the focus of a new bill from the desk of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.
The senator's recently-introduced Ocean Shipping Reform Act looks to get American goods overseas faster by updating global shipping regulations. The bill would make it harder for international ocean carriers to arbitrarily turn away goods that are ready to be shipped at ports, while giving the federal government greater authority to investigate and regulate their business practices.
"These shipping companies are kind of picking what they want to ship, and they're tending to emphasize shipments that are from other countries, things that aren't made in the Midwest, because we're a little further away. So our stuff sits at the port, or it's harder to get going," Klobuchar told KIMT.
She adds the bill allows the Federal Maritime Commission to "step in and say, 'you've got to be fair with American goods when it comes to shipping. You can't use our ports, you foreign conglomerate, and then favor other country's goods over ours.' That will really help us because they have to have access to our ports in order to do business."
Senator Klobuchar says significant supply chain issues have become increasingly apparent over the past two years, with reports of agricultural products sitting at ports while ocean carriers return to Asia with empty containers. America's dairy industry lost about $1.3 billion during the first nine months of 2021 alone as a result of higher shipping and storage costs, according to the Senator's office.
In addition to evening the playing field for exporters, Senator Klobuchar believes the Ocean Shipping Reform Act would benefit American consumers and workers amid supply chain issues.
"If we can speed this up so our goods go to market, that's good for American workers who are making the stuff, and also goods come to us faster. That is a big part of the supply chain issue, some of it, of course, spurred on by the pandemic. It also should bring costs down. They've been charging too much, they're making four times the profit off the back of consumers."
A similar bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa is one of the legislation's 12 co-sponsors in the senate.
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and Minnesota Corn Growers Association have expressed support for the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.