Negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association on a labor contract have extended past the late-July deadline, leaving some exports of U.S. beef, pork and lamb in the lurch, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said this week.
Talks have recently taken a negative turn, and congestion has increased, USMEF said, an issue that is "very concerning" for the meat export industry.
Paul Clayton, USMEF senior vice president for export services, explained that frozen meat exports face higher storage and transportation costs when ports are congested. Companies exporting chilled (never frozen) meat not only face higher costs, but must also be concerned with the limited shelf life of the product.
While land shipments to Canada and Mexico are still moving, the Asian markets receive shipments originating from the West Coast – and very few shipments are sent by air, mainly due to cost.
In sum, about 78% of ocean-bound meat exports exit the United States through West Coast ports.
With congestion increasing at some West Coast ports, the U.S. Meat Export Federation recently joined a broad coalition of agricultural industries in urging the White House to use all means at its disposal to help bring these contract negotiations to a conclusion, including assignment of a federal mediator.
West Coast Senators also have asked for action on the disagreement, sending a letter to leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association on Nov. 12 urging resolution of the matter.
Read more on the issue: Seattle, Tacoma Port Worker Slowdowns Threaten Farm Exports