Shipping Dispute Disrupts Exports

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DES MOINES, Iowa - The shippers’ association representing 29 affected ports and the dockworker’s union agreed on a five-year contract, according to a joint statement released late Friday.

That contract is expected to be ratified by the membership of both organizations in the coming weeks.

During the dispute, commerce through the entire West Coast slowed down, with particular ramifications for meat exporters, whose chilled products have limited shelf life.

Even with the new developments, Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says the backlog of shipments delayed during the dispute will likely take weeks, if not months, to get back on track.

Now he says the question is how the reputation of the United States as a dependable supplier with be affected, "So, it's important to have certainly a whole transportation system, but including our port infrastructure, including those who service those ports being willing to be a part of this as well. We can't keep having every few years these kind of large disputes that all of a sudden threaten our ability to export. If the United States wants to be a leading exporter on the global market place. We have to have a port system that will work with us to allow those aspirations to become outcomes."

Before the tentative agreement, Steenhoek says meat exporters were facing costly alternatives, such as transporting products through Canada or Mexico, or even through the East Coast. Delays were also penalized, and Steenhoek says the added costs were in the billions.