March 4, 2015

Obama To Intervene In West Coast Port Disputes

Various sources this morning are reporting that President Obama will intervene in the ongoing west coast labor dispute following months of negotiations between the ports and the International Longshore and Warehousing Union.  The White House is intervening as the work slowdown has hurt both the import and export of various goods through the major ports and is causing severe economic stress in certain industries.  The Port of Oakland alone is reporting 18 ships currently anchored in the bay as of Friday, with no unloads scheduled until today.

The Pacific Maritime association has accused the ILWU, which represents around 20,000 dockworkers and operators of purposely slowing operations.  Specifically, the PMA says the union has short staffed the cranes needed to unload cargo off the ships, although ILWU denies this.   The union says it needs to properly train the operators on safety procedures.

Exactly how the president will intervene remains to be seen.  We will update this story accordingly throughout the day




West Coast Ports Shut Down

Media reports indicate that West Coast ports will be mostly closed the next few days because of on an ongoing labor dispute.

Employers at West Coast shipping ports said Wednesday they were suspending operations due to the continuing impasse with the union that is representing dockworkers.

The Pacific Maritime Association said it will halt loading and unloading at the ports on Thursday. The closures will continue through Monday at many locations.

The topic of port slowdowns came up during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked what the Administration was willing to do about the situation.

California 16th District Congressman Jim Costas – and the Secretary’s reaction.


International Longshore and Warehouse Union officials said they were surprised by the shutdown because early last week the two sides appeared close to reaching an agreement.

South Dakota Republican John Thune expressed concern with reporters on Wednesday that meat in freezers at the West Coast waiting for shipment to the Far East and elsewhere could instead be pushed back into the U.S. domestic market – potentially pressuring livestock prices.  Thune said the slowdowns are costing the meat industry financial losses to the tune of $40 million a week.




Renewable Fuels Come Under Fire in Congress

Its been a rough few months for renewable fuels, with EPA failing to release the blending requirements for 2014 or 2015, oil prices falling and the U.S. easing regulations that would allow a huge increase in Argentinean produced biodiesel.  Now, Congress is looking at two bills that could threaten the future of the industry.

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, along with 38 co-sponsors, has introduced two bills in Congress.  One which would cap corn ethanol’s portion of the RFS to 10% and a second that would eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard altogether.  Commentators suggest that this could be the first in a long battle for renewable fuels in the upcoming year and one that might test President Obama’s true support for ethanol and biofuels as a whole.

As expected, the blowback has been swift from many in the agricultural industry.  Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy said the effort would do nothing but harm consumers.  He was quoted as saying, “This bill does nothing to address the critical policy goal of achieving energy independence, nor will it lower the cost of food as the authors claim”. National Farms Union president Roger Johnson said that eliminating the RFS would hurt farmers who have benefited from the expanded market for their corn.

Proponents for the bill include some long agriculture adversaries like the Environmental Working Group, but the situation isn’t that clear cut either.  Some end users, like the National Chicken Council endorse the bill as a “way to fix a broken system”

On a related note, EPA has said earlier this week that it intends to finalize the RFS volumes for 2014, 2015 and 2016 by spring.