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Canal expansion raises port concerns with soybean group

The pending expansion of the Panama Canal is raising questions of whether U.S. ports can handle the larger ships that will start using the canal in 2014, the United Soybean Board said in a news release Monday as a soy group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Panama Canal Authority.

“Only a handful of U.S. ports can now handle the big ships that could start coming our way,” said Phil Bradshaw, a Griggsville, Ill., soybean farmer who is past chairman of the United Soybean Board, a checkoff group that promotes soybean sales. “And that holds major implications for U.S. soybean farmers because most of our beans leave through southern U.S. ports. We want U.S. farmers to be able to benefit from the expanded canal, but we have a lot of questions about how the expansion will affect U.S. soybean farmers.”

The Soy Transportation Coalition and the Panama Canal Authority signed the memorandum of understanding to share information, promotion efforts and educational events as the expansion program continues.

Whether the U.S. government should pay for expansion of U.S. ports or whether the private sector should do that job is a subject of continuing debate in Congress.