United States soybean growers aren’t going to finance expansion and modernization of the Panama Canal, but they want Congress, other nations of the world and private industry to ante up working with the Panamanian government and the Panama Canal Authority. The organizations representing soybean growers also are pushing for Congress to finance an improved U.S. transportation infrastructure.

From all indications, the will to finance such projects through the national budget is not prevalent, but the soybean groups did not address that factor in issuing a news release about the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  

An MOU between the Panama Canal Authority and the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) to undertake joint initiatives for marketing, data interchange and market studies regarding modernization and improvements to the Panama Canal was signed this week in Washington, D.C.

Speaking at the event, American Soybean Association Chairman Rob Joslin, a soybean producer from Sidney, Ohio, welcomed Alberto Aleman Zubieta, administrator/chief executive officer for the Panama Canal Authority and other Panamanian officials and stressed the importance of the canal in the export of U.S. soybeans.

Joslin took the opportunity to make a point about the potential shortfall of money to improve the transportation infrastructure of the U.S. In the news release announcing the MOU signing, he was quoted as saying, “Put simply, the United States needs to modernize our infrastructure and ensure that we are positioned to compete down the road. As the policy arm of the U.S. soybean industry, the American Soybean Association will continue to work with policymakers to address our current and future transportation modernization infrastructure needs. This includes our ports and inland waterways, as well as our rail industry and highways.”

The Panama Canal expansion provides an opportunity for the United States to improve its international competitiveness, but only if the U.S. makes the decisions and investments necessary to improve internal transportation infrastructure that supports U.S. exports, it was suggested in the MOU announcement.

 “The record levels of soybean exports we are experiencing surely would not be possible without the vital link that the canal provides,” Joslin said. “While trade markets and exports are going well for U.S. soybean farmers today, we recognize that we have to continually look for ways to improve our competitiveness or else we will be overtaken by our competitors in the global marketplace.”

Soybeans and soybean products are the number one United States export commodity. Last year, the U.S. exported a record-setting $23 billion in soybeans, soybean oil and soybean meal. This amount represents one-fifth of all U.S. agricultural exports and over 50 percent of U.S. soybean production.

The STC, which represented the soybean groups in signing the MOU, is an organization comprised of the American Soybean Association, United Soybean Board, and nine state soybean boards.