During our House Small Business Caucus earlier this month, Delaware’s Export Director David Mathe told those in attendance that the state is committed to helping Delaware small-business companies sell more of their products in other countries. It was encouraging to hear Mr. Mathe’s presentation and to have him share with Delaware small businesses how the state can help them export their products overseas. The topic of exporting more of Delaware’s wares beyond our nation’s borders is something that I support. For that reason, I will be sponsoring a resolution that directs the Delaware Department of Agriculture and the Port of Wilmington to study the feasibility of expanding the operations at the port to include agricultural product exports.
Originally, I sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 30 to establish the Port of Wilmington Exports Task Force, which would have been comprised of state, business and labor leaders. After conversations with the Department of Ag and port officials, it was determined that the most productive path forward would be instead to allow the two entities to work together and explore all options for expanding Delaware’s export products as a way to further grow our state’s economy. As stated in HCR 30, the U.S Department of Agriculture has documented a national trend of increased agricultural exports between 2009 and now, and it is expected that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. The Port of Wilmington, which is the primary national terminal for importing several products including fresh fruits and juice, successfully handles more than 400 vessels and 5 million tons of cargo annually. The port also has a very active export program which includes commercial cargo, vehicles, scrap metal and livestock, and accounts for approximately 20 percent of the total tonnage volume. In the past, it has also handled certain agricultural exports on a limited basis, including frozen chicken and organic corn. Realizing that an expansion of the port’s operations to include agricultural products would require a detailed analysis to determine if the port has the capacity to accommodate such an expansion, the Ag Department and the port will study the costs and benefits of this proposal. Their report containing potential beneficial economic impacts, funding and staffing requirements, timelines, and any anticipated action by the General Assembly is expected by early next year. I believe the resolution, which has the full support of the Department of Agriculture, is a positive step toward building our economic portfolio, and I expect that this proposal will be considered before the legislature adjourns at the end of June.
State Rep. Jeffrey N. Spiegelman R-District 11 (Hartly, Kenton, Townsend and surrounding areas) Clayton