From bridges and roads, to rail and ships, shipping concerns start local but move global

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

The electrical current that makes the global supply chain run is reliability and predictability. If ever someone had “unplugged” that current, it’s now.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition, says that the past few weeks and few years have been a real eye-opener for some, that what happens half-way across the globe can have real impacts right at home.

The flip side is that the infrastructure in our own backyard can be just as impactful on supply chains, and for Canada and the U.S. some of the roads, bridges, waterways, and rails are in need of serious upgrades.

“Our roads and bridges were not designed or built for 21st century agriculture,” Steenhoek says, adding that where they are worst is where the resources are that need moved.

The coalition Steenhoek leads works to identify logistics problems, and then find solutions to problems, and works to implement those solutions. For example, the coalition worked with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp to reduce tolls for new freight users of the system, as an incentive to use the route. There is also a project working at deepening the lower Mississippi so companies can load more soy or grain per vessel.

“Each different problem requires different solutions, and that’s a big part of what the coalition tackles,” he says, in the interview below, recorded at Commodity Classic in early March.

Moving on to railways, there is a serious storm cloud brewing over the threatened CP Rail strike, as plenty of fertilizer comes south from Canada into the U.S. Steenhoek says his group is watching developments closely. (Editor’s note: 72 hour strike notice was given late on Wednesday, Mar 16)

Ultimately, he says, the global supply chains are an orchestrated system. Small disruptions become large ones, and monumental ones, such as the war happening now in Ukraine, have impacts that will likely be felt long in the harvest season and perhaps even longer.

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