Importance of Transportation Highlighted at Economic Summit

Funding for WRDA is needed to upgrade lock and dam systems.

Published on: Oct 7, 2011

Transportation was the subject of an economic summit hosted by the city of Quincy, Illinois earlier this week. Among those addressing the crowd of over 350 was Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

Sutter brought a message about the exciting growth in the future exports of soybeans, but also discussed the need to keep the transportation links in the U.S. in good repair and investing in them to keep the competitive advantage the U.S. enjoys in the soybean world. As an example, Sutter addressed funding for the Water Resources Development Act, which was passed several years ago but is still not funded.

"Well it is very disappointing," Sutter said. "And I think it is people not having the foresight to see the importance and the real competitive advantage that those locks and dams have provided to the U.S. over the years for many things, commodities going northbound and important agricultural commodities going southbound."

Sutter says conferences like the one in Quincy will hopefully help get the message to the policymakers in Washington D.C. He stressed the importance of not letting the systems age so much that they present problems with shipping channels.

Attendees of the summit also learned about the expansion of the Panama Canal. Sutton says that will be an advantage to soybean growers.

"Asia is becoming a major market for soybeans," Sutter said. "About a quarter of all the soybeans produced in the United States go to China and then we have other Asian markets as well, so Asia is very important to us. As we ship soybeans down the Mississippi River they get to the Gulf and the expansion of the Panama Canal allows larger ships to be loaded giving greater access for U.S. soybeans."

Sutton says the Panama Canal project reinforces the need for the U.S. to have a competitive and economic means of getting soybeans to the bottom of the Mississippi River.