Illinois faces infrastructure challenges in moving soybeans

by World Grain Staff
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BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS, U.S. — Aging infrastructure provides a challenge for Illinois farmers who are preparing for record soybean production, the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) said on Oct. 1.

With 42% of the soybeans grown in the U.S. exported to other countries, transportation is key for the industry’s success, the group said.

The focus on infrastructure is especially significant in a year Illinois is poised to produce record soybean production.

"The soybean crop looks better than average," said Paul Rasmussen, Genoa, Illinois, U.S., soybean farmer and ISA director. "In an average year, 5.7 million tons of soybeans are transported. In central Illinois we're looking at one of the best crops we've ever had."

From field to global market, Rasmussen said an infrastructure of roads, bridges and waterways keeps soybeans moving smoothly. Soybeans leave the farm by truck and are delivered to a local elevator where they are loaded onto train cars or barges. In Illinois, about 54% of soybeans are destined for export while half are processed domestically and transported by rail.

Elevators and other merchandisers need to coordinate efforts to prepare for the incoming wall of soybeans.

"While the potential bumper crop presents many opportunities, it also will require skillful logistical management by our Champaign, Illinois, U.S., facility team," said Brian Stark, regional sales manager, The Andersons, Inc. "The combination of patience and good communication between elevator personnel and farmers will ensure harvest runs smoothly for everyone."
 
Kelly Buchanan, marketing and communications manager at Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. (CGB), said, “All areas of the transportation systems, including rail, truck and barge, are going to be stretched tight during the harvest period. Many of our elevators are preparing temporary space in ground storage to help handle the large harvest; these piles will help us cope with the tight transportation outlook and help ensure our elevators are open for business during the harvest season.”

As crop yields grow and trade patterns change, ISA continues to work with business, government and industry leaders to find transportation solutions that efficiently move soybeans from farm gate to customer. A 2011 checkoff-funded study found that every dollar invested in infrastructure repairs provides an average return on investment of $10.24. Those repairs could bring much needed physical and financial support to Illinois’ multi-million dollar soybean industry.

"ISA is a voice for soybean farmers, leading infrastructure conversations at the local, state and national levels," said Rasmussen. For example, ISA is developing a public-private partnership pilot program (P5) to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with resources to bring locks and dams up to standard. ISA also is identifying roads and bridges in greatest need of repair.

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