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Port of Oakland and USDA jump-starting ag exports again

Relief is coming to growers who ship farm goods from the Port of Oakland. The Port is teaming up with the federal government to provide financial aid to agricultural exporters. The intent is to ease the pain of a year-long supply chain disruption that’s impeding farm trade. The Port added that restoration of vessel service is essential to resolving Oakland’s supply chain challenges. Ocean carriers have been skipping Oakland due to vessel logjams in Southern California.

“Our partnership with the USDA to open a temporary pop-up yard will go a long way in helping ag exporters,” said Port of Oakland maritime director Bryan Brandes. “At the same time, we still need the shipping lines to bring back vessel service to Oakland to address the high demand of export volume.”

The Port said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would make direct payments to farm producers shipping overseas. The program is available to exporters using container ports in Oakland, Seattle or Tacoma. Here’s how it would work: 

  • The USDA would pay ag shippers $200 for every container of farm goods they export. 
  • Exporters using refrigerated containers for perishable commodities would receive $400 per container. 
  • Exporters would receive an extra $125 for every empty container they pick up at a designated Oakland storage depot. 

The Port said USDA payments are intended to offset soaring shipping costs resulting from global supply chain breakdowns and the expense of additional container moves. Ag exports from Oakland and other U.S. ports have declined since last year due to the chaos. 

“Both the Port of Oakland and the Northwest Seaport Alliance in Seattle have been identified as key gateways for American-grown agricultural commodities, and each has experienced significant challenges with the flow of containerized agricultural commodities and products,” said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack in a recent USDA press release. “While USDA’s per-container reimbursements will not cover the full cost of moving and storing shipping containers, the assistance provided will help ensure American-grown agricultural products can efficiently move through supply chains to reach global markets.”  

USDA payments mark Oakland’s second collaboration with the federal government in the past year. In 2021, the Port and USDA established an Oakland depot to distribute empty containers to ag exporters. Oakland is an essential export gateway for California farm goods, as well as Midwest meat products. 

The USDA said its export payment program would continue throughout 2022. Exporters would need to submit payment applications by next January to receive reimbursements. The agency said payments would be made through the Farm Service Agency. 

According to the USDA, the following commodities would be eligible for payments: agricultural commodities (other than tobacco) grown or produced in the U.S. for food, feed or fiber, and products made from those commodities, including certain forestry products.   

For more information:
Robert Bernardo
Port of Oakland
Tel.: +1 (510) 627-1401

Marilyn Sandifur
Port of Oakland
Tel.: +1 (510) 627-1193 

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