The Agricultural Transportation Working Group (ATWG) has detailed the challenges facing the ag supply chain and provided recommendations for addressing the issues. In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the ATWG describes how supply chain disruptions are impacting the industry. The group notes several policy improvements needed and areas that require increased investment.
“More needs to be done to institutionalize the lessons that are being learned from the pandemic to ensure resiliency of the food and agricultural supply chain,” the letter states. “We believe our responses provide ideas to support supply chain policies that will allow U.S. farmers, ranchers, commodity handlers, processors, and food manufacturers to reliably deliver high-quality, cost-effective products to domestic and global consumers.”
Labor is highlighted by the group as being the most pressing issue affecting the ag supply chain. Inadequate labor availability is creating challenges in nearly all phases of the supply chain, from production, to processing, to transportation. The group suggests multiple actions to increase trucking productivity and ensure worker safety.
The group also recommends several approaches to help strengthen freight transportation policy and infrastructure. Policy changes to increase trucking availability and flexibility were suggested to help ease the constraints on the movement of agricultural goods. ATWG encourages more federal investment in inland waterways locks and dams, and the adoption of solutions that better fit the needs of both ag exporters and ocean carriers. Congestion at U.S. ports has been creating significant dysfunction within the supply chain. The group estimates that delays and complications related to port issues have resulted in nearly $1.5 billion in lost agricultural exports.
The group also notes that expanding motor carrier capacity and increasing competition within the transportation sector is necessary for addressing ag supply chain challenges. ATWG is calling for better access to rail carrier data to help shippers and receivers optimize supply chain operations. The group also highlights its support for the Surface Transportation Board’s pending proceeding on competitive switching among rail carrier services.