Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) is urging the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to address serious challenges that are impeding rural area exporters' ability to ship goods to the global market.
In a letter to LaHood, Conrad warns that exporters in North Dakota and other rural areas in the Midwest are being disproportionately impacted by the lack of service. “This situation is simply unacceptable,” he says. “If our exporters are to remain competitive, they must be able to rely on the transportation network to get their products to markets and that network must not unduly penalize those who are in rural areas."
He is concerned about reports that producers have been unable to access containers needed to ship their products overseas. When containers are available, prices per container are often 50% higher than those at other inland areas, making it prohibitively expensive to ship products. Many exporters have resorted to trucking containers hundreds of miles, at considerable expense, just in order to obtain equipment to ship products to overseas markets.
These costs are ultimately passed on to the producer, which leads to lost export opportunities and overseas customers because they cannot remain competitive in the global marketplace. "Producers tell me they have lost business when customers can’t get timely delivery of products or they have been priced out of the market, all because they can't get containers to ship commodities to market,” says Conrad. “This is a serious issue that threatens North Dakota's economic competitiveness.”