Updated: November 1, 2018

Current Situation

The reliability and efficiency of the U.S. transportation system is a significant advantage for U.S. soybean farmers over our international competitors. However, global infrastructure investment is improving transportation efficiency abroad: The world is catching up in a way that could have a major economic impact on U.S. soybean farmers. U.S. infrastructure requires improvements and modernization to maintain our competitive advantage, especially as global demand and domestic production continue to increase.

Why the Checkoff Cares

Farmers rely on an efficient transportation infrastructure to lower the cost of bringing soybeans to market. International end users expect a dependable, consistent supply of high-quality soybeans delivered on time through the most reliable supply chain in the world. With competition between the United States and other top soy-producing countries intensifying, maintaining this differentiating factor is critical to building and maintaining preference for U.S. soybeans.

Key Points

  • The U.S. transportation infrastructure is currently the best in the world. To sustain our competitive advantage, the system requires modernization.
  • Barge transport of soybeans provides the most economical, efficient and sustainable method of transportation for U.S. soy.
  • The lock and dam infrastructure along the U.S. inland waterways needs attention. Most U.S. locks and dams are more than 50 years old and in need of updating. The system requires investment to maintain, rehabilitate and update.
  • Investment in the infrastructure is critical to ensure U.S. soybean farmers can continue to move soybeans from areas of surplus to areas of deficit, which ensures domestic and international end users receive a steady supply of U.S. soybeans.
  • International soy buyers often cite predictability of delivery as important as price, so maintaining system reliability is important to meet end-user demand.

Facts & Figures

  • The United States has 236 locks at 191 sites spanning more than 25,000 miles of commercially navigable inland waterways.1
  • Fifty-eight percent of U.S. soybean exports depart from the Mississippi Gulf region and 89 percent of those soybeans arrive to the region via barge.2
  • The U.S. has a competitive advantage in transportation costs compared to other top soy-producing countries. According to the Soy Transportation Coalition, total transportation costs for one metric ton of soybeans from Davenport, Iowa, to Shanghai, China, equals $61.66, compared to $96.94 for soybeans shipped from Port of Santos, São Paulo, Brazil, to the same destination.3
  • A lengthy failure at a key lock and dam along the inland waterway system would result in tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue for U.S. farmers, according to the Soy Transportation Coalition.4

Other Resources