Let’s Go!: Council sponsors annual transportation conference

Often times, it’s easy to overlook how complex the world matrix is when it comes to sending soybeans to different parts of the world. With commodity beans, it might as easy as taking a load to the elevator and then not thinking too much about the journey those little soybeans are about to take.

Thankfully for Minnesota soybean farmers, the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA) is actively involved in discussions exploring those complex issues. This week, SSGA brought the industry together with its annual Transportation Go! conference.

“Transportation Go! is a recipe for success because it asks the corn, soybean, wheat, beef and pork industries to come together at a single place to talk about what their transportation logistics issues are for intermodal and units to use rail and access international markets,” said Eric Wenberg, executive director for SSGA, which hosted the transportation and logistics industry in Omaha, Neb., to dig into some of the industry’s biggest challenges.

The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) sponsored the conference. District 9 Director Ben Storm, from Dover, Minn., attended the two-day conference on behalf of the Council.

“This was a really interesting conference,” Storm said. “Transportation and logistics are complex subjects, and the lineup of speakers dug into some very serious issues impacting the central U.S. states and their ability to reliably deliver crops to international markets.”

The lineup of speakers covered a wide range of topics including:

• Economic and supply chain issues
• Rail freight and economics update
• Hiring, developing and retaining talent in ag logistics
• Container ocean shipping — a port’s perspective
• Untapped potential of the Missouri River
• Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway’s growth
• Finding solutions from rail to sea
• Top issues facing trucking

Thursday morning, the group was addressed by Max Vekich of the Federal Maritime Commission. Vekich talked about struggles with container shipping and also some of the obstacles companies are facing in moving product across the globe.

“The transportation system isn’t really a system,” Wenberg said. “It’s more of a way we have to actively ask these transportation and logistics professionals to work together. Transportation is not seamless. As we’ve heard this week, there are obstacles in every transaction, sometimes insurmountable, but that there is relief on the way with the Federal Maritime Commission’s upcoming demurrage rule, which is going to provide relief we’ve sought for a long time.”

A year ago, the St. Lawrence Seaway dominated discussion at Transportation Go! From that event, 200 containers of Chippewa Valley Bean kidney beans left the Port of Duluth-Superior bound for Europe, a historic shipment that made plenty of news.

“Transportation Go! is about finding that success, about having people undertake that dialogue that will lead to better transportation from the central states,” Wenberg said.

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