My how times change

In a few days I will be attending my 40th Illinois Farm Bureau County Managers Conference. If memory serves me correctly, my first one was in Peoria. At that time I was probably one of the youngest managers in the state, now I’m fourth on the seniority list of the organization. My how times change.

Looking back I recall conferences in Bloomington, Springfield, Champaign, Peoria, Pekin, St. Louis, Shelbyville, Decatur and others I’ve lost track of. For some reason Johnny Cash’s “I’ve been everywhere” just popped into my head.

This will be that last conference for my peer and comrade Blake Roderick from Pike County. He has announced his retirement May 1. He started his career in farm bureau as assistant manager in Sangamon County in 1981. When he left for the manager’s position in Pike County I followed him into Sangamon in 1982.

We’ve shared plenty over the years, some of which I can discuss, others of which I’ve been sworn to secrecy. So I’ll bid him farewell after this conference. As for me I’ll have two more to trudge through. Oh well, as my dad always said, “don’t have sense enough to get out of the rain.”

Supply chain

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented volume of imports as consumers shifted their spending from services to goods. Ports, while operating at record volumes, could not offload ships fast enough to prevent queues offshore. Truck and warehouse capacity have been strained due to congestion. As goods became stalled in the supply chain, importers incurred increasing charges for the use of containers while exporters struggled to find containers available. These events have brought renewed attention to the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) authorizing statute. This hearing will examine opportunities to update the Federal Maritime Commission’s authority to increase oversight of international ocean carriers. 

The Klobuchar-Thune Ocean Shipping Reform Act would: provide the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) with greater authority to regulate harmful and discriminatory practices by international shipping companies; require carriers to certify that the fees they charge for delays are in compliance with federal regulations or face penalties; increase transparency on how many empty containers carriers are transporting; and prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining U.S. exports that have been stranded at the docks.  

This bill revises requirements governing ocean shipping to promote the growth and development of U.S. exports. For example, the bill prohibits common ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, or ocean transportation intermediaries from refusing cargo space when available or resorting to other unfair methods.

This bill revises provisions related to ocean shipping policies and is designed to support the growth and development of U.S. exports and promote reciprocal trade in the common carriage of goods by water in the foreign commerce of the United States.

Among other provisions, the bill:

Sets forth requirements for operating a shipping exchange involving ocean transportation in the foreign commerce of the United States;

Requires ocean common carriers to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import and export tonnage and the total loaded and empty 20-foot equivalent units per vessel that makes port in the United States;

Requires the FMC to publish and annually update all its findings of false certifications by ocean common carriers or marine terminal operators and all penalties assessed against such carriers or operators;

Revises annual reporting requirements for the FMC on foreign laws and practices to include practices by ocean common carriers;

Prohibits ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators from retaliating or discriminating against shippers because such shippers have patronized another carrier, or filed a complaint;

Directs the FMC to establish rules prohibiting ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators from adopting and applying unjust and unreasonable demurrage and detention fees;

Authorizes the FMC to initiate investigations of an ocean common carrier's fees or charges and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate;

Directs the Department of Transportation to seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to study the U.S. supply chain industry, including data constraints that impede the flow of maritime cargo and add to supply chain inefficiencies; and

Provides authority for the FMC to issue an emergency order requiring ocean common carriers or marine terminal operators to share directly with relevant shippers, rail carriers or motor carriers information relating to cargo throughput and availability.

“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.” – Abe Lemons

Ron Kern is the manager of the Ogle County Farm Bureau.


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