Ag Exports Impacted by Labor Issues at Two California Shipping Ports
A recent strike at two shipping ports in California caused many ag exports to temporarily come to a grinding halt. Any further work stoppages at those ports may have an impact on farmers and ag businesses in Michigan.
“We’re very concerned about this issue on the west coast because a large percentage of our beef and pork exports, especially the chilled exports, go off the west coast,” says Dan Halstrom, President and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California closed for two days earlier this month when union workers went on strike during contract negotiations.
“They’re back to normal though, but this centers around the Longshoremen contract that has not been renewed yet,” according to Halstrom. “Hopefully, that was a one-off incident, and we won’t see a recurrence, but yeah, we had work shutdowns for a day or two.”
He says union members at those two ports have been working without a labor contract since last July.
“That’s not unusual. That happens, it seems like, whenever they renew the contract, but it’s now dragging into April of the following year, so it’s a bit concerning. Indications are that progress is being made, but meanwhile, we’re still waiting for it to be concluded. So yeah, the fact that there were some slowdowns and stoppages is very concerning from our point of view.”
Halstrom says another work stoppage at those ports would impact not only the food supply chain—but also, the overall ag economy.
“It wasn’t that long ago, during COVID, where we had that very situation where things were getting backed up on the West Coast. And we certainly don’t need to relive those times,” says Halstrom. “The chilled products—chilled beef and chilled pork—are some of our highest-value products. It’s essential that we’re efficient on the west coast, where we can get them out in a reasonable length of time and not have delays of a week or more. There’s a large economic impact if we get back to where we were two years ago during COVID.”
That may lead many companies to divert their non-perishable ag exports through ports along the East and Gulf Coasts instead—which may cause further backups and delays for those other ag products.