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 things.”

Meeting increased demand and seizing the moment would require a combination of greater production and updating the transportation system.

“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 phenomenal opportunity.”

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.