Members of the Soy Transportation Coalition's board of directors toured key transportation sites in New Orleans and southern Louisiana on July 8 and 9 in conjunction with the organization's summer board meeting. The purpose of the site visits was to expose the leadership to much of the infrastructure utilized for exporting soybeans and soy products to overseas customers.
Mike Steenhoek is the executive director of the STC, which is headquartered in Des Moines in the offices of the Iowa Soybean Association.
New Orleans accounts for 60% of grain shipments
"The infrastructure and ports in the New Orleans area can account for 60% of all grain and oilseed exports from this country," Steenhoek says. "It is an essential link in the overall logistics chain and a significant contributor to the soybean industry's ultimate profitability. It is therefore important for the leadership of the Soy Transportation Coalition to visit these sites firsthand, listen to their concerns and explore opportunities to work together in the future for mutual benefit."
The group, including representatives from the Iowa Soybean Association, visited the Port of New Orleans, including the Napoleon Avenue container terminal; the Port of South Louisiana; the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock; and Bunge's soybean processing and export facility.
Containerized shipping important to Iowa
Randy Van Kooten , a farmer from Lynnville is a STC board member. "Visiting the container terminal at the Port of New Orleans further exposed the group to a distribution channel that is being increasingly used by the soybean industry," says Van Kooten. "In my town alone, four to five containers are filled with soybeans each day to be ultimately delivered to customers in Asia. Containerized shipping is important to our industry, and it was therefore encouraging to tour the port's recent investments to help promote this growing transportation option."
Ed Ulch is a producer from Solon and STC board member. "Visiting the lock and seeing the upgrades that are needed reiterated to the group the importance of our lock and dam system to the transportation of soybeans, soy products and other commodities," Ulch says.
The lock was built in 1921 and is unable to accommodate much maritime freight movement due to its small size. The lock, authorized to be replaced in 1956, is still waiting to receive major investment for needed improvements. "We have locks of similar age and in similar condition along our major rivers," Ulch says. "This causes the movement of U.S. soybeans and all other commodities to be less efficient and cost effective than it should be. Hopefully, our country will make the needed investments to improve this key component of our delivery system."
Locks need to be updated
Bobby Landry, director of marketing for the port, hosted the visit. "It was a pleasure hosting the board of the Soy Transportation Coalition at the Port of New Orleans," Landry says. "Our nation's infrastructure, including our ports and locks and dams along our rivers, are in desperate need of investment for the health of agriculture and our overall economy."
It is encouraging to see soybean farmers, a very important constituency in this country, become increasingly engaged in this important issue, he says. "The Port of New Orleans affirms the efforts of the Soy Transportation Coalition and looks forward to working with this important organization in the future."
The Soy Transportation Coalition was established in 2007 by Iowa Soybean Association, six other state soybean boards, American Soybean Association and United Soybean Board. Goal of the STC is to position the soybean industry to benefit from a transportation system that offers cost effective, reliable and competitive service.
To learn more about STC, visit its Web site at www.soytransportation.org.