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  • USDEC's Harden leads proactive approach to solving supply-chain issues for dairy exports

    By USDEC February 7, 2022

    U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Krysta Harden is working with USDEC members, agriculture groups, policymakers and others to find solutions. 

    The supply-chain crisis cost U.S. dairy exporters well over a billion dollars in 2021 and has continued into 2022, hurting dairy farmers, dairy processors and global customers who rely on shipments of U.S. cheese and dairy ingredients.

    Krysta from Agri-Pulse webinar (605 × 335px)

    "We're living with this new normal that's entirely abnormal," said U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Krysta Harden. "I worry that these export supply chain issues could damage our industry’s reputation as a reliable global supplier, at no fault of our own.”

    The estimate of more than $1.3 billion in added costs and lost opportunities for dairy exporters through just the first three quarters of 2021 comes from the U.S. Dairy Export Council and National Milk Producers Federation. The membership organizations are working hand-in-hand to take a proactive approach to the crisis, working closely with their Export Supply Chain Working Group of members, port officials, the Biden Administration and Congress, among others. 

    "We are connecting with other organizations beyond dairy because this is not just a dairy problem and it won't just be a dairy fix," said Harden. "Our drumbeat has been consistent and steady and we're getting louder because this isn't going away quickly."

    On January 31, USDEC and NMPF co-hosted a webinar with Agri-Pulse of agriculture industry leaders and policymakers at the National Press Club in Washington. More than 1,200 registered for the event via Agri-Pulse, a media organization that the dairy organizations worked with to convene the gathering. 

    Those who missed the live webinar can access:

    • A USDEC news release summarizing the webinar here.
    • An NMPF "Dairy Defined" podcast featuring a recording of Harden's discussion with policymakers here.
    • An Agri-Pulse video recording of the entire webinar here.


    Harden moderated a Washington, D.C. panel examining export supply-chain issues.

    In the panel discussion moderated by Harden, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed a new partnership with the Port of Oakland. It will create a 25-acre “pop-up” site at the port dedicated to easing the loading of empty containers with agricultural exports and dedicated per-container funds to offset costs. A USDA news release is here

    The program will include a dedicated gate with the ability to pre-cool refrigerated shipping containers. The hope is this should reduce bottlenecks at the port’s main entrance.

    "This isn’t a total fix to all the challenges our exporters are facing. But it’s an important step forward," said Harden. The new program follows persistent recommendations by USDEC to Administration to provide targeted relief for agricultural exporters grappling with higher costs, port congestion and shipping carriers returning to Asia with 70% of their containers empty.

    Durkin (605 × 335px)

    The crisis affects every USDEC member, including Denver-based Leprino Foods, the country's single biggest buyer of U.S. milk and the world’s largest maker of mozzarella cheese, with nine U.S. manufacturing facilities and exports shipping to 55 countries.

    Leprino President and CEO Mike Durkin joined Harden and others at The National Press Club event.

    Durkin said supply-chain delays damage Leprino's reputation as a reliable and consistent supplier with its customers around the world. At issue, he said, is nothing less than "the long-term viability of exports."

    Besides Vilsack and Durkin, the event also featured John Porcari, the Biden Administration’s Supply Chain Ports Envoy; Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA); Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD); Andrew Hwang, manager of business development and international marketing for the Port of Oakland; and Jon Eisen, director of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference for the American Trucking Association, as well as moderators Krysta Harden of USDEC and Jaime Castaneda of NMPF and USDEC.

    Among its many actions aimed at delivering export supply chain relief, USDEC is working with Congress to address many of the issues in play through the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. With input from its member working group, USDEC has been among the most active in pressing Congress for action and played a key role in shaping the legislative texts of both the House and Senate bills. The House passed the measure in December with an overwhelming 364-60 bipartisan vote. USDEC is seeking to retain this momentum by pushing for expeditious passage of the Senate companion legislation introduced Friday.

    Mark O'Keefe is vice president of editorial services at the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

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    The U.S. Dairy Export Council fosters collaborative industry partnerships with processors, trading companies and others to enhance global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients. USDEC is primarily supported by Dairy Management Inc. through the dairy farmer checkoff. How to republish this post. 

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