Thursday, July 3, 2014

Kentucky’s exported soybeans bring value back to state

Farmers Rely on Roads, Rails 
and Rivers to Move Their Crop

Kentucky soybeans are already popular among customers both inside and outside the state, and that popularity is expected to grow. Without improvements to the state’s transportation infrastructure, however, Kentucky soybean farmer Keith Tapp says continued shipments of this lucrative commodity could be threatened. 

The value of Kentucky’s soybean exports last year reached almost $450 million, second among all commodities produced in the state. Tapp says that Kentucky farmers like him depend on reliable access to road, rail and river shipping in order to stay competitive and satisfy customers both here and abroad. 
“It’s very important for us to improve our infrastructure, so that we can get our products to our customers, including international customers,” says Tapp, a United Soybean Board (USB) farmer-leader who farms in Sebree, Kentucky. 
Soybeans that customers in Kentucky don’t use get transported by truck or rail to a barge-loading facility for shipment down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers before being transferred onto ocean-bound vessels. 
The Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), a USB partner dedicated to keeping the U.S. transportation infrastructure working for U.S. soybean farmers, anticipates major increases in shipping volumes. In fact, an STC report projects barge loadings of Kentucky soybeans to nearly triple by 2020 from where they were in 2010. 
“For the United States overall, a majority of the soybeans we produce are exported,” adds Tapp, who serves as one of USB’s liaisons to the STC. “We need the assurance that our soybeans will be delivered to our purchasers. There is demand out there, and we want to continue to meet that demand by making sure our transportation infrastructure is maintained to adequately service that need.” 
The challenges include a 50-year-old highway system, a 70-year-old inland-waterway system and a railway network built in the late 1800s. All three received a grade of C+ or lower in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. 
The 70 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy’s customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.

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