WASHINGTON –The labor contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the US Maritime Alliance (USMX) is set to expire Dec. 29. Although both sides have been negotiating a new contract since April, little progress has been made. As a result, a coalition of meat and poultry industry groups has urged President Barack Obama in a letter to intervene and prevent a strike at container ports from Maine to Texas.

“A strike of any kind at ports along the East and Gulf Coast could prove devastating for the US economy, particularly considering the economic setback suffered by the ports, especially the Port of New York/New Jersey, as a result of super storm Sandy,” the letter states, in part. “We call upon you to use all means necessary, including Taft-Hartley, to keep the two sides at the negotiating table and head off a coast-wide strike."

In 2011, US beef, pork, poultry and lamb product exports totaled more than $16 billion; the US meat processing industry employs more than 500,000 people.

Earlier this month, members of the coalition sent a similar letter urging the resolution of the strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. A deal there was reached after an eight-day strike and the impact of that strike is still being calculated.

Economists estimated that a 10-day lockout of west coast ports in 2002 cost the US economy $1 billion for each day of the lockout.

Coalition members include the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, US Meat Export Federation, North American Meat Association, USA Poultry and Egg Export Council and the National Turkey Federation.