Transportation Go! reconvenes for ag transportation discussions; sets 2025 date in Mpls

Transportation Go! returned to the Great Lakes region March 13-14, 2024, in Toledo, Ohio, for two days of solution-seeking discussions among those involved in agricultural transportation. Hosted by the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA) and sponsored in part by the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), the event brought together about 120 growers, port authorities, shippers, suppliers and others involved in transporting agricultural products.

A panel of representatives of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway ports talked about opportunities, infrastructure updates and ways they work together to ensure cargo travels efficiently along the St. Lawrence Seaway en route to its destination.

In the 1970s, the seaway moved 80 million tons of cargo per year, but only handled 36 million tons in 2023.

“There are all kinds of opportunities for moving cargo on the system,” said David Gutheil, chief commercial officer for the Port of Cleveland. “Let’s stop getting excited when we handle 40 million; that should not happen. Let’s handle more.”

The panel sees a feeder service as the next opportunity for Great Lakes shipping and aspires to develop markets in Asia.

Other modes of transportation were also discussed at the conference, including three speakers covering trucking and drayage topics.

MSR&PC Vice Chair Gail Donkers (front row) was reelected to SSGA’s board during its annual meeting on March 12, 2024.

Michelle Schultz of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), an independent federal agency responsible for regulating various modes of surface transportation, primarily freight rail, answered questions along with Max Vekich of the Federal Maritime Commission, an independent federal agency that regulates U.S. international ocean transportation.

MSR&PC Vice Chair Gail Donkers, who farms in Faribault, Minn., attended Transportation Go! for the second time and said soy checkoff investments are critical to diversifying and improving transportation routes.

“Transportation Go! is a great opportunity to learn and network with people that are also interested in how ag products are transported. There’s a lot of shared knowledge that farmers don’t know or otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about,” Donkers said. “With more than $9 billion worth of ag products exported out of Minnesota, efficient transportation is vital.”

Donkers was also reelected to serve on the SSGA Board of Directors during SSGA’s annual meeting.

Hardy Pearson from Hapag-Lloyd and Jaeson Dandalides presented about ocean carrier opportunities, including their plans for equipment updates and sustainability. Pearson also addressed Hapag-Lloyd’s stance to not travel through the Suez Canal after several vessels have been attacked by the Houthi group from Yemen.

For the second year, Transportation Go! attendees included the next generation of the logistics and transportation industry. Students and their advisers from the University of Toledo studying in the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management were special guests at the conference.

The event ended with tours of the Port of Toledo and Port of Monroe. The event will return March 12-13, 2025, in Minneapolis.

Follow The Conversation