JOLIET, Ill. – The U.S. has the capacity to seize the moment
in meeting the growing global demand for agricultural products, but first has to
get its ducks in a row.
“We need to meet the challenge of being the singular
most-reliable, most-consistent supplier of soybeans and grain of any nation in
the world because we have the water, we have the infrastructure,” Bruce Scherr,
CEO of Informa Economics Inc., said at the Export Transportation Summit, hosted
by the Illinois Soybean Association.
“We have tremendous capacity here to seize the moment. The
single, biggest feature we have to solve is the political situation, which is
broke to say the least.”
National and international agriculture and transportation
industry stakeholders attended the ISA event to discuss ways to fix
transportation infrastructure issues that limit the soybean value chain’s
profitability. With the growing world population combined with increased incomes
in developing countries, Scherr said the limiting constraint in meeting that
demand for more food “is probably water.”
“How do you export water? You export water in the form of
rain and corn and soybeans,” he said. “Illinois has an ample supply of water
over the long term. That’s a phenomenal resource along with other
Meeting increased demand and seizing the moment would
require a combination of greater production and updating the transportation
“It would be a travesty if this country does not produce 2
billion bushels more corn and 1 billion bushels more soybeans. How capable is
this country to handle and deal with the logistics of that additional production
that is around the corner,” Scherr said.
“A decade is no time when you’re talking about the need to
invest and put into place the infrastructure that we’re talking about. This is a
Meeting these challenges would have a significant positive
impact on the U.S. economy.
“Is there any greater balance of trade, any greater job
creation, any greater prospect for the United States as a nation and its
economic makeup than to support and cooperate with agriculture — jobs, trade
balance and currency,” Scherr said.
“If you are truly self-supporting, you are an exporter. This
is a tremendous opportunity but in my mind we are woefully behind the curve as a
nation. We don’t have an infrastructure strategy. We think about our strategies
from moment to moment, not decade to decade, and these are long-term decisions.
“It is incumbent on the agriculture community. It’s
incumbent for organizations like the Illinois Soybean Association to make the
argument not in the name of improving farmer income, that will happen, not in
the name of rural development, that will happen, but in the name of the macro
features that will drive the decision-makers on a national basis.
“It’s not a Midwest question. It’s a national question. It’s
a sustainability question that relates to our geopolitical powers, our economic
power and our ability to grow this economy moving forward.”
He said rather than arguing about the farm bill or crop
insurance, the debate should be focused on the infrastructure.