The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) applauded the passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“On behalf of the U.S. dairy industry, I want to thank Congressman Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Congressman Johnson (R-S.D.) for their hard work in moving this bill forward in a bipartisan manner,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based IDFA. “When the votes were cast, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act had 96 bipartisan sponsors and 364 votes, demonstrating that Congress can provide important tools in addressing supply chain bottlenecks plaguing U.S. dairy and food exports. IDFA strongly encourages the Senate to propose and pass a similar bill in a timely manner.

“The House version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) will provide real, long-term solutions for the myriad issues congesting U.S. ports and slowing U.S. dairy exports,” Dykes added. “The bill places disciplines on ocean carriers’ ability to decline export cargo and when demurrage can be charged, helping to get U.S. exports on the water in a more timely manner. It also strengthens the oversight authority of the Federal Maritime Commission over ocean carriers, the vast majority of which are foreign owned and have no incentive to ensure the successful export of U.S. dairy products.”

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the legislation would help alleviate delays and disruptions at U.S. ports that have cost the U.S. dairy industry well over $1 billion this year, said USDEC and NMPF in a joint statement. American dairy exporters since late 2020 have faced unprecedented challenges in securing shipping container accommodations on ocean vessels while contending with record-high fees and shipping access volatility, most of which has been driven by foreign-owned ocean carriers.

USDEC and NMPF, both based in Arlington, Va., said they were among the first contributors to drafting OSRA. The bill supports key steps to resolve supply-chain obstacles by amending the U.S. Shipping Act to provide new oversight and enforcement authority to the Federal Maritime Commission, expand opportunities for shippers to seek redress from ocean carriers, and increase transparency and accountability among ocean carriers and other parties. The bill specifically would restrain carriers’ ability to deny export shipments, increase the availability of containers, improve protections against retaliation and better address unfair detention and demurrage charges.

“While dairy exports are on track for a record year in 2021, it is important to consider how much more the United States could have exported without the onslaught of shipping challenges and fees this year has brought,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “We worked from the beginning of this year on generating the broad bipartisan support demonstrated today for the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which shows the urgency of the issue and the need for reform, both to alleviate the short-term congestion and to ensure that the reputation of the United States as a reliable supplier is not further jeopardized. We commend House leadership for taking this critical step to tackle these challenges.”