Ag Transportation Summit to Focus on Linking Growing U.S. Ag Production With Expanding Demand

"Connecting Growing Supply with Growing Demand" will be the theme and focus of the third Agricultural Transportation Summit conference to be conducted on July 25-26 at the Westin Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Va.

Jointly hosted by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), and sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, this year's conference will occur at a particularly pivotal time as the U.S. transportation network is challenged to move increasing volumes of agricultural products and other freight. Kristi Block, Executive Vice President of the Nebraska Grain and Feed Association will be attending. Members will receive an Executive Update from the information Kristi gathers at this Summit.

The summit will bring together leaders from agricultural producer and commodity organizations, agribusinesses, Congress and government agencies to focus on the importance of rail, inland waterways, ports, and truck transportation to the competitiveness and profitability of U.S. agriculture. Another goal of the summit is to galvanize stakeholders to proactively promote modernization of the U.S. transportation infrastructure and to develop and coordinate strategies for pursuing future enhancements. The conference will begin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, July 25, and conclude on Thursday, July 26.

"U.S. farmers continue to demonstrate an ability to feed a growing and hungry planet," said STC Chairman Gerry Hayden, a soybean, corn, wheat and cattle producer from Calhoun, Ky. "However, to remain profitable, we must not only produce what customers demand but also be able to transport it to them in a cost-effective, reliable manner. Several aspects of our transportation system are under some stress in that regard, and those challenges must be addressed for U.S. agriculture to remain competitive."

"Each of our transportation modes is facing challenges that we need to work collaboratively to address," added NGFA Chairman Eric Wilkey, president of Arizona Grain Inc., Casa Grande, Ariz. "Over the past year, the lack of predictable, reliable rail service has affected shippers and receivers adversely in several regions, leading to plant shutdowns or slowdowns in several instances. Also looming is the continued challenge of rehabilitating the locks and dams on the inland waterways system that are well beyond their 50-year life span. There also are challenges facing the motor carrier industry, whether it be the condition of our roads and bridges, costly regulatory requirements or access to drivers in a tight labor market."

NGFA and STC emphasized the importance of agricultural shippers and receivers, and agricultural producers, as well as representatives of the transportation sector, attending this year's event.   

"It's important that agricultural stakeholders, transportation providers from all three modes and government come together to ensure that the U.S. transportation system remains a key competitive advantage for U.S. agriculture," NGFA and STC said.

Overview of Ag Transportation Challenges: An overview of the conditions and challenges confronting agricultural transportation will be presented by Ken Eriksen, senior vice president for energy and transportation at Informa Economics, Memphis, Tenn.

Rail Session: Key executives U.S. Class I railroads will engage in an interactive question-and-answer session on ways to ensure sufficient rail capacity is available to serve U.S. agriculture. Confirmed speakers include representatives from BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, CSX Transportation Co., Norfolk Southern Railway, Kansas City Southern Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Canadian National Railway also has been invited to participate. Surface Transportation Board Chairman Ann Begeman, whose agency is responsible for regulatory oversight of the freight rail industry, also is confirmed to address the summit on key rail policy initiatives.

Inland Waterways and Ports: The top official for the federal agency responsible for construction, operations and maintenance of the inland waterways system and ports - Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James - will headline the waterways and ports session. Other confirmed speakers include Michael Toohey, president and chief executive officer of Waterways Council Inc., which represents the barge and towboat industry. The conference also will feature a port panel consisting of Sean Duffy, executive director of the Big River Coalition, Tom Capozzi, chief sales officer for the Port of Virginia, and Mark Wilson, executive director of the Port of Kalama, Wash. The port session will be moderated by Jim Walker, director of navigation policy and legislation for the American Association of Port Authorities.

Motor Carrier Focus: A top executive officer of one of the nation's leading motor carrier companies has been invited to discuss the technology changes occurring in trucking, as well as the labor and regulatory challenges being confronted by the sector. In addition, a panel of state transportation department directors from Iowa, Michigan and North Dakota will discuss how their states are approaching transportation infrastructure needs, including highways, rural roads and bridges, and inland waterways.

Innovation Sessions: The summit also will feature two sessions on emerging technology and innovations in transportation. Sal Litrico of American Patriot Holdings LLC, Miami, Fla., will discuss a new technology for shipping containers. Another session will examine the use of block chain technology in the transportation sector, as well as a project being developed by NGFA to enable barge shippers to utilize electronic transmission of barge-trading documents, including bills of lading.

Special Workshop on Prioritizing Ag Infrastructure Projects: As an add-on to the formal program, there also will be a luncheon and special workshop conducted on July 26 from noon to 4:30 p.m. by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service concerning a research project being conducted on how to prioritize future transportation infrastructure investment for agricultural export supply chains. Importantly, this will be the final opportunity for agricultural stakeholders to provide input on the research before the project concludes. The research is being conducted for USDA by Washington State University and Texas A&M University's Transportation Institute and AgriLife Extension.

Registration: The early bird registration fee is $295 per person until July 7. Onsite registration is $350 per person. Register online here. Hotel reservations at the Westin Crystal City at a rate of $189 per night, plus tax, are available here.


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