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Global Container Shipping Disruptions, Pop-Up Ports, and U.S. Agricultural Exports

AAEA members release new research in AEPP

New research published in Applied Economics Perspectives & Policy (AEPP) evaluates the economic impact of a cornerstone of the Biden administration's response to shipping disruptions on the U.S. West Coast. The USDA established the Commodity Container Assistance Program in 2022 to help cover additional logistical costs from shipping U.S.-grown commodities through the ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Oakland. Using counterfactual estimation techniques that compare U.S. containerized agricultural shipments from ports that participated in the program with those that did not, the authors reveal that the program did little to foster U.S. agricultural exports. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that the program incurred costs of $2.8 million, comprising $1.8 million in start-up and $1.0 million in per-container costs, between March and September 2022.

In their new AEPP article “Global Container Shipping Disruptions, Pop-Up Ports, and U.S. Agricultural Exports,” Sandro Steinbach from North Dakota State University and Xiting Zhuang from the University of Connecticut examine how the Commodity Container Assistance Program shaped U.S. containerized agricultural exports from Western ports in 2022.

The authors say, “The results show that the Commodity Container Assistance Program did little to facilitate U.S. containerized agricultural shipments from ports that participated in the program. Although shipments were about 1.0% above the counterfactual level, the estimated treatment effects are statistically insignificant. While most commodities did not benefit from the program, containerized shipments of refrigerated products (raw and prepared meat) expanded after the program was established. The program benefits outweigh the cost considerably. From March to September 2022, the program incurred start-up costs of $1.8 million and total per-container costs of $1.0 million. During that period, average monthly containerized agricultural exports from participating ports were $18.6 million above the counterfactual level.”

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ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes three journals, the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (an open access journal), the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

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