U.S. farmers are prepared to meet growing world demand for grains, but key infrastructure improvements must be made if the United States is to handle increased grain exports, according to a U.S. Grains Council spokesman.

USGC Director of Trade Policy Floyd Gaibler told a West Coast briefing on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (deep-water shipping port) that China and India are projected to move nearly 300 million people out of poverty and into the middle class by 2020.

“That means very significant new demand for grain,” Gaibler said. “U.S. grain farmers already export 25 percent of what they grow and they can increase that significantly…the challenge is whether the United States can continue to modernize its transportation infrastructure and expand export capacity to meet this expected future demand. If there is a constraint, it’s about being able to ship our grain in a timely and efficient manner.”

In the past decade, grain exports from the Pacific Northwest have increased. The Gateway terminal proposed for Cherry Point, Wash., would give grain shippers a natural deep-water facility that could handle the largest Cape-sized vessels without requiring dredging.

“We need facilities like this if we are going to stay competitive in the global marketplace,” said USGC Treasurer Don Fast, one of the grower leaders representing the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee who attended the conference. “By sharing the council’s perspective on where Asian grain demand is headed, we contributed valuable insight to the discussion. It illustrates why our 2011 council theme is ‘The Year of Competitiveness.’”

The workshop and related tour, sponsored by SSA Marine (a cargo terminals operation company), brought together government officials, shippers, grain farmers, and railroad representatives as part of the process to achieve final clearance to develop Gateway Pacific.