wisconsin soybean

Wisconsin soybean farmers talk transportation challenges, opportunities in Omaha

Categories: WSMBPublished On: March 22, 20232.4 min read

Share This

Moving soybeans to market is complex. That is why the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance convened for Transportation Go! in Omaha, Neb. March 15-16.

“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 Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board sponsored the conference, and President Pat Mullooly and Director Steve Wilkens attended to better understand the difficulties facing Wisconsin farmers in moving soybeans to market.

“This is a great event because it helps us understand the transportation of our soybeans, not just in Wisconsin but across the Midwest,” Wilkens said. “Certainly everything is kinda interconnected. One of the bigger items we took away is that we have a great opportunity with the Great Lakes.”

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 Commissioner 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.

“We want to make it so we’re a real regulatory agency,” he said. “We’re going to stick up for the little guy. We’re not going to stand on the sideline; we’re going to get into the game and issue yellow cards, red cards, whatever it takes. … As shippers, you deserve a fair shot.”

Wenberg was pleased with the lineup of speakers but was equally excited about the movers and shakers who attended the conference.

“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.