January 23, 2020

Sen. Thune: Commerce Subcommittee on West Coast Port Disruptions

A news release from Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) indicated today that, “[Sen. Thune], chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today at a hearing before the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security highlighted the frustrations and challenges South Dakota agriculture producers, businesses, and shippers are facing due to the self-imposed worker slowdowns at various West Coast ports. Thune highlighted two South Dakota stories and called for all sides to come together to find a resolution in the port dispute that has been going on for roughly nine months.

“‘We greatly appreciate Senator Thune highlighting these critical issues before the Commerce Committee,’ said Jodie Anderson, Executive Director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. ‘The port strike limits the ability of ranchers throughout South Dakota to move fresh meat to Asian markets. This means lost revenue, unnecessary port charges, and severe consequences for our customer relationships. We thank Senator Thune for his call for greater urgency and intensity in ending these delays.’

Port inefficiencies impacting South Dakotans:

“‘I’ve talked with and Tyson’s [Fresh Meats] in my state in South Dakota and they have shared with me that we’ve got beef and pork sitting in freezers near the ports instead of heading to Asian markets, while we’ve got large container ships sitting off the coast waiting to export our nation’s premium products. That affects jobs. Tyson’s employs 41,000 people and the USDA estimates there a million jobs associated with agricultural exports in this country and so it has a profound impact on the economy, not just on the West Coast but all across the country. Workers in South Dakota and other places are reliant upon…a reliable supply chain.

“‘Outdoor Gear Inc., a family-owned business in South Dakota, they are a wholesaler, and it receives 95 percent of its inventory from West Coast ports and has been forced to miss deadlines, pay late-delivery penalties, and pass up important sales opportunities, including in December, which of course is the holiday peak season.’

Need for resolution:

“‘This is an issue that just really needs our focus. It’s a huge drain on the economy and I just urge all sides to come to a resolution in this dispute, and find a solution as soon as possible. We just can’t afford to drag this on and have our economy pay this kind of price. If we can get this behind us we can start focusing our energy and creativity on a lot of the other long-term infrastructure challenges that desperately need our attention as well.'”

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