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Large Soybean Crop Tests Illinois Transportation System

Illinois farmers are wrapping up what is expected to be one of the state’s largest soybean harvests. According to USDA’s most recent crop production report, farmers across the state have harvested 95 percent of fields with production expected to total 623 million bushels of soybeans.

The Illinois transportation system will now be put to the test with roughly half the crop destined for export, while the rest is processed domestically and transported by rail to other market areas.

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program makes transportation a priority.

“Farmers depend on the availability and condition of roads, bridges and waterways to keep soybeans moving efficiently,” says Paul Rasmussen, Genoa, Ill., soybean farmer and ISA director. “Our transportation system is what makes Illinois soybeans competitive in the international marketplace. We can move soybeans from farm gate to a wide range of end users more cost effectively and reliably than our competitors.”

Transportation System Keeps Pace

So far, the transportation system is capable of handling the record crop pretty well, according to Scott Sigman, ISA transportation and export infrastructure lead.  In 2011, ISA commissioned research with Informa Economics IEG to evaluate smooth, competitive market access during bumper crop years. The report, “Transport Capacity for 600 Million Bushels of Soybean Utilization,” predicted the system had the capacity to move 600 million bushels of soybeans.

“ISA had the foresight to see a 600-million-bushel crop coming and wanted to make sure the system could handle it,” says Sigman. “Our infrastructure is under pressure with large corn, soybean and wheat crops all needing to move this fall, but we should not experience too many hiccups.”

Ken Eriksen, senior vice president, Informa Economics IEG, characterizes the activity as a record-setting event. The United States will export 150 to 180 million bushels of grain and soybeans per week during the next 10 weeks. Illinois exports 43 percent of its soybean crop.

Infrastructure Critical to Farmer Profitability

The ability to move so much grain is thanks to the large rail, interstate and inland waterways network. Trucks deliver soybeans via a network of more than 2,000 miles of interstate highways and 34,500 miles of state highways. Class 1 railroads connect in Chicago, the largest rail gateway in the United States, to move soybeans to both domestic and international markets. And unique to Illinois, the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois rivers form arteries for soybean exports.

“No other state in the heart of soybean country has this kind of transportation infrastructure,” says Rasmussen. “Transportation is one of the key factors affecting farmer profitability. We can produce big soybean crops, but if we don’t have a way to reach domestic and international markets, that is irrelevant. The Illinois transportation system puts us closer to international customers and allows us to get our product where it needs to go more efficiently.”

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) represents more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois through the state soybean checkoff and membership efforts. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, promotion, issues management and analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoy.org.

Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is a membership organization serving more than 43,000 Illinois soybean growers. ISG provides advocacy in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to promote the interests of Illinois soybean farmers and programs that enhance soybean production and demand. Voice for Soy, the online action center supported by ISG, allows growers to easily connect with legislators and regulators to advocate for Illinois agriculture. For more information about ISG, visit the website www.ilsoygrowers.com.


For more information, contact:

Amy Roady

Julie Orchard