Agricultural Transportation Summit set for July 25-26

by Arvin Donley
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ARLINGTON VIRGINIA, U.S. —"Connecting Growing Supply with Growing Demand” will be the theme and focus of the third Agricultural Transportation Summit conference to be conducted July 25-26 at the Westin Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

 Jointly hosted by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), and sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, this year’s conference will occur at a particularly pivotal time as the U.S. transportation network is challenged to move increasing volumes of agricultural products and other freight.

The summit will bring together leaders from agricultural producer and commodity organizations, agribusinesses, Congress and government agencies to focus on the importance of rail, inland waterways, ports and truck transportation to the competitiveness and profitability of U.S. agriculture. Another goal of the summit is to galvanize stakeholders to proactively promote modernization of the U.S. transportation infrastructure and to develop and coordinate strategies for pursuing future enhancements.

“U.S. farmers continue to demonstrate an ability to feed a growing and hungry planet,” said Gerry Hayden, chairman of the STC and a soybean, corn, wheat and cattle producer from Calhoun, Kentucky, U.S. “However, to remain profitable, we must not only produce what customers demand but also be able to transport it to them in a cost effective, reliable manner. Several aspects of our transportation system are under some stress in that regard, and those challenges must be addressed for U.S. agriculture to remain competitive.”

 Eric Wilkey, chairman of the NGFA and president of Arizona Grain Inc., Casa Grande, Arizona, U.S., added, “Each of our transportation modes is facing challenges that we need to work collaboratively to address. Over the past year, the lack of predictable, reliable rail service has affected shippers and receivers adversely in several regions, leading to plant shutdowns or slowdowns in several instances. Also looming is the continued challenge of rehabilitating the locks and dams on the inland waterways system that are well beyond their 50-year life span. There also are challenges facing the motor carrier industry, whether it be the condition of our roads and bridges, costly regulatory requirements or access to drivers in a tight labor market.”

The NGFA and the STC emphasized the importance of agricultural shippers and receivers, and agricultural producers, as well as representatives of the transportation sector, attending this year's event.

“It’s important that agricultural stakeholders, transportation providers from all three modes and government come together to ensure that the U.S. transportation system remains a key competitive advantage for U.S. agriculture,” the NGFA and the STC said.

The conference will include the following sessions:

  • Overview of Ag Transportation Challenges: An overview of the conditions and challenges confronting agricultural transportation will be presented by Ken Eriksen, senior vice-president for energy and transportation at Informa Economics, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Rail Session: Key executives U.S. Class I railroads will engage in an interactive question-and-answer session on ways to ensure sufficient rail capacity is available to serve U.S. agriculture.
  • Inland Waterways and Ports: The top official for the federal agency responsible for construction, operations and maintenance of the inland waterways system and ports — assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James — will headline the waterways and ports session. 
  • Motor Carrier Focus: A top executive officer of one of the nation’s leading motor carrier companies has been invited to discuss the technology changes occurring in trucking, as well as the labor and regulatory challenges being confronted by the sector.
  • Innovation Sessions: The summit also will feature two sessions on emerging technology and innovations in transportation. Sal Litrico of American Patriot Holdings LLC, Miami, Florida, U.S., will discuss a new technology for shipping containers. Another session will examine the use of block chain technology in the transportation sector, as well as a project being developed by NGFA to enable barge shippers to utilize electronic transmission of barge-trading documents, including bills of lading.

As an add-on to the formal program, there also will be a luncheon and special workshop conducted on July 26 from noon to 4:30 p.m. by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service concerning a research project being conducted on how to prioritize future transportation infrastructure investment for agricultural export supply chains. This will be the final opportunity for agricultural stakeholders to provide input on the research before the project concludes.

The early bird registration fee is $295 per person until July 7. Onsite registration is $350 per person. Register online here. Hotel reservations at the Westin Crystal City at a rate of $189 per night, plus tax, are available here.

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