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Memo to President Urges Help in Opening Ports

Below is the text of a letter sent to the White House from NCBA and a coalition of agriculture groups urging policymakers to work aggressively to reopen U.S. ports.

October 2, 2002

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to utilize your authority to reopen West Coast ports, so that critical export and import trade can be resumed at the earliest possible moment.

Collectively, our organizations represent the $100 billion a year meat and poultry industry. As you know, for a variety of reasons, 2002 has been an especially challenging economic period for livestock producers and for beef, pork, chicken and turkey processors. The combination of large volumes of domestic supplies, exacerbated by the six month ban on U.S. poultry exports to Russia, have had a significant downward impact on both livestock prices and wholesale meat and poultry prices.

Although most economists believe profitability may not return to this agricultural sector until next year, there have been some encouraging signs recently that seem to suggest the worst may be behind us. Domestic beef and pork supplies are falling to better align supply and demand, and as a result of your strong leadership and the persistence of your Administration, poultry exports to Russia have resumed.

‘Maintaining our exports is essential to restoring profitability to this industry. We export more then one out of six pounds of chickens produced, 10 percent of beef and 8 percent of pork, collectively valued at more than $12 billion annually. Many of our largest export markets are in the Pacific Rim and virtually all of the products that they buy are transported through West Coast ports. These export markets, such as Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan account for 60 percent of beef exports, over 50 percent of pork exports and one quarter of our chicken exports, valued at more than $4 billion. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. hides worth $1 billion per year are also exported through West Coast ports.

And because such a large volume of these meat and poultry exports are perishable, even the briefest interruption of shipping through West Coast ports will have a profound economic impact on the U.S. meat and poultry industry and on our Nation's livestock producers.

Therefore, Mr. President, we respectfully urge you to utilize your authority to ensure that shipments are immediately resumed through West Coast ports.

American Meat Institute
National Cattlemen's Beef Association
National Chicken Council
National Pork Producers Council
National Turkey Federation
U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association

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