October 3, 2002
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the U.S. food and agriculture, we are writing to express our serious concern about the damaging impact of the continuing shutdown of West Coast ports on U.S. exports of food and fiber. The impact is growing daily and threatens to jeopardize the livelihood of American farmers and ranchers who rely on exports for a major source of their income. As you are aware, many U.S. producers are experiencing financial distress, and loss of export sales from West Coast ports will inflict severe economic harm on an already weak farm economy.
American agriculture has worked hard to build foreign markets for their production, often partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and does not want to lose our exports markets. Harvest is in full swing, processing plants are operating and grain is moving through its distribution channels. Perishable farm goods, such as fruits and vegetables, and other exports, such as grains and livestock, are ready for export. As a result of the continuing West Coast port shutdown, our trading partners are already looking to foreign competitors to provide a reliable supply of high quality agricultural products. Once lost, these export customers will be hard to recapture.
Farm exports from the West Coast are sold to Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean and elsewhere. The Pacific Rim is the top market for U.S. farm exports, accounting for about a third of our shipments abroad. Five of our top 10 customers, countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, are in Asia.
If agricultural exports from the West Coast cannot resume as soon as possible, agricultural commodities and products meant for export must be absorbed into our domestic market, having a dramatic negative impact on U.S. farm prices.
While resolution of the labor dispute is critical to long-term viability of our West Coast exports, we strongly urge you to use your authority to pursue all options available to you to reopen the ports and force a resumption of shipping while encouraging labor and management to negotiate in earnest toward an acceptable solution for both sides.
Mr. President, please act soon to protect the economic viability of hardworking American farmers and ranchers, preserve export markets and prevent serious damage to our domestic markets.
Agricultural Retailers Association
Agricultural Council of California
American Cotton Shippers Association
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Food Groups
American Meat Institute
American Potato Trade Alliance
American Seed Trade Association
Blue Diamond Growers
California Association of Wheat Growers
California Wheat Commission
Central Soya Company, Inc.
Corn Refiners Association
Diamond of California
Farmland Industries, Inc.
Food Distributors International
Grocery Manufacturers of America
Indiana Grain & Feed Association
Land O’ Lakes
Louis Dreyfus Corporation
Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
National Chicken Council
National Corn Growers Association
National Cotton Council
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Grain Trade Council
National Grape Cooperative Association
National Meat Canners Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Pork Producers Council
National Potato Council
National Renderers Association
Nebraska Co-operative Council
Nebraska Grain & Feed Association
Nestle Purina PetCare Co.
North American Export Grain Association
North Grain Dealers Association
Northwest Horticultural Council
Ohio Agribusiness Association
Pacific Grain Export Association
Pacific Northwest Grain & Feed Association
Pro-Fac Cooperative, Inc.
Rice Millers’ Association
Tennessee Farmers Cooperatives
Texas Grain & Feed Association
Transportation, Elevator and Grain Merchants Associations
Tyson Foods, Inc.
United Egg Association
United Egg Producers
United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable
U.S. Apple Association
U.S. Dairy Export Council
U.S. Grains Council
U.S. Rice Producers’ Group
U.S. Wheat Associates
Wheat Export Trade Education Committee
cc: Honorable Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Labor
Honorable Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation
Honorable Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture