AFBF Seeks Waiver Of Shipping Law

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) will urge the Bush administration to allow foreign vessels to transport U.S. corn and soybeans from ports damaged by Hurricane Katrina, an industry official told Reuters News Service on Friday.

The AFBF said it will ask President George W. Bush to waive the federal Jones Act, which mandates only U.S.-owned ships carry passengers and cargo between U.S. ports. "Without a waiver of the Jones Act, American farmers could be harmed, as traditional commodity buyers look to overseas suppliers," it said.

A spokeswoman said the farm group expected to send a letter to President Bush requesting the waiver as early as Friday. The government provided the U.S. oil and gas industry a 30-day exemption to the law earlier this month, the farm group said.

The Port of New Orleans, which has slowly resumed operations two weeks after the hurricane hit, accounts for 55-65 percent of all U.S. corn, soy and wheat exports and handled 50 percent of the 50.2 million metric tons of grain shipped through all U.S. ports so far this year, according to the industry.

“This year's harvest will come on-line just as the export capacity hurt by Hurricane Katrina is beginning to recover," the letter said.

The farm group said a limited number of vessels were available for use by the agriculture industry, which makes their cost far higher than using foreign flag vessels. Truck and rail transportation were not a viable option as they were already stretched beyond capacity, the group said.

Officials from the Agriculture and Homeland Security departments were not immediately available for comment.

Editors note: Richard Brock, The Corn and Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.