Transportation Go! reconvenes for ag transportation discussions

Categories: WSMB, WSPPublished On: March 20, 20242.2 min read

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Transportation Go! returned to the Great Lakes region March 13-14 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 Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board (WSMB), 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 enroute 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 would love to develop markets in Asia. 

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

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. 

WSMB board member Steve Wilkens from Random Lake, Wisc., has attended all three years of Transportation Go!, including the first show in Milwaukee. 

“Transportation Go! is a good opportunity to learn and network with people that I might only see once a year. There’s a lot shared here that farmers don’t know or otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about,” Wilkens said. “Such a large percentage of ag products are exported out of our state, making efficient transportation vital for our economy.” 

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 2025 event will be held March 12-13 in Minneapolis.