Culpeper Star-Exponent: Spanberger to USDA: address impacts of bridge collapse to Virginia farmers


The only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address supply chain disruptions caused by the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore nearly two weeks ago.

The tragic collapse on March 26 could have a significant impact on domestic trade, international trade and farmers, producers and growers in Virginia and across the country, according to a release from U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, on Monday.

The Port of Baltimore is the largest port by volume for handling farm and construction equipment like tractors, combines and hay balers, she stated.

In 2023, the port moved a record 1.3 million tons of roll-on/roll-off farm and construction machinery. It also handles billions of dollars in agricultural imports and exports — like sugar, soybeans, grains, coffee and grocery items — each year and is the largest entry point for wet and dry fertilizer in the nation, according to Spanberger.

Engineers working to clear the wreckage of the bridge said last week they expect to be able to restore navigation in and out of the Port of Baltimore by the end of this month, the Associated Press reported.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Spanberger stressed the port’s vital role and emphasized impacts of the bridge collapse on transportation routes, agricultural markets and the operations of key terminals. The congresswoman urged the USDA to recognize the wide-ranging impacts of this incident, provide support to producers to mitigate the effects of supply chain disruptions and to communicate with Congress about the potential for congressional action.

“As the wreckage of the collapsed bridge obstructs the movement of ships to and from port terminals, I am concerned about the supply chain impacts. For example, the port’s significant role in handling Ro/Ro vehicles, particularly during this time of year, is of paramount importance to farmers. These vehicles transport essential agricultural equipment and machinery that is vital for operations, such as spring planting,” said Spanberger.

“Disruptions in the availability of these vehicles could create uncertainty for farmers, delay planting and cultivation activities and ultimately impact food prices. At a time when Americans continue to express concerns about food costs at the grocery store, the federal government should exercise all tools necessary to avoid rising costs resulting from this crisis.”

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