Whether beef, pork, poultry, specialty grains, pet foods or animal feeds, there is never a shortage of high-quality Missouri products available for import. When it comes to sending products across the globe, however, the thing that makes Missouri unique is its ability to use the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as a main artery for exports. Barge ports alone account for 30 million tons of Missouri commodities shipped annually.
When these powerhouse ports are combined with the state’s multi-faceted transportation systems in aviation, railroads and highways, the result is $4.35 billion worth of agriculture products exported by Missouri in 2014.
Reliable, Efficient And Accessible
When AGRIServices of Brunswick LLC was choosing a location, access to all modes of transportation was key. This advantage has helped make AGRIServices the largest importer and exporter on the Missouri River.
“We have been importing fertilizer and exporting grain continuously since 1978,” says Lucy Fletcher, business development manager at AGRIServices. All the while, the business uses inland waterways as the backbone of their transportation system.
Barge transportation has benefits of being environmentally friendly, cost effective and safe.
“In a rural area such as ours, the economic impact of a healthy terminal impacts not only our community, but farmers within our market area,” Fletcher says.
Tom Waters, a seventh-generation farmer producing corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on about 3,500 acres near Orrick, Mo. knows this first-hand as the majority of their land is located in the Missouri River bottoms. As a Chairman of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association and a member of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, Waters says the river system still holds great room for expansion.
“I’m looking forward to watching this industry grow and our economy benefit from the hard work taking place today to lay the groundwork for future transportation on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers,” Waters says.
Another strategic route for ag exports is via highways and railroads, like the Norfolk Southern Railway.
“We utilize truck and rail, then transload to an ocean-going vessel,” says Adam Thomas, grain manager at SEMO Milling. Established in 2007 and exporting since 2009, SEMO Milling quickly gained a reputation both nationally and abroad for providing high-quality dry corn ingredients. Located in Scott City, the company has established successful export markets in the Caribbean, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and Africa as part of USAID.
The Panama Canal Expansion
A Missouri trade delegation led by Governor Jay Nixon in March 2016 headed to Panama to help grow state exports and attract foreign investment. As one of Missouri’s key markets, Panama received more than $22.5 million in state goods and commodities in 2014.
With this historic expansion, the amount of cargo passing through the canal is expected to double while lowering transport costs by an estimated $14 per metric ton and boosting volumes by 30 percent between 2011 and 2020.
As a result, Thomas anticipates that “it will promote a lot more river
traffic up and down the Mississippi River.” By making it easier to ship agricultural goods globally, it’s no understatement that this could be a game changer for exports.
“We are cautiously optimistic that the Panama Canal expansion will assist our nation’s competitive advantage for international grain exports,” says Fletcher.
Furthermore, Waters has already noticed “many ports are working to expand and improve their facilities and prepare for this increase in future business. There is momentum for growth in Missouri’s river transportation industry.”
It is evident that with its advantageous access to rivers and other forms of transportation, Missouri agriculture is poised to capitalize on future export growth opportunities.