BAY CITY – While agriculture continues to expand across Michigan, farmers and agribusinesses depend more than ever on a reliable, dependable transportation network for supplies and to ship products around the world. This morning, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Mike Green andMichigan Agri-Business Association (MABA) President Jim Byrum convened a special meeting of area agriculture leaders, as well as state and federal government officials, to discuss rail and water transportation issues.
“Michigan agriculture is leading our nation forward, and we absolutely need a transportation system we can count on,” said Green. “Rail and water transportation are especially important for the Thumb and Saginaw Bay area. By expanding and improving these important transportation options, we can help agriculture continue to grow, boost our economy and create good jobs in the long term.”
Green emphasized the value rail and water transportation provide to Michigan’s Bay and Thumb. More than 50 percent of corn, 80 percent of soybeans and 40 percent of wheat produced in the region reach their destinations by rail every year, and one rail hopper transports more than two truckloads of grain, reducing transportation costs by an estimated $.50 per bushel.
Green and MABA also released a new fact sheet this morningfurther detailing the benefits of reliable transportation for the region’s agriculture sector.
“Discussing these issues today is important for the future of Michigan agriculture,” Green said. “A modern, reliable rail infrastructure system is going to mean a better bottom line for farmers and rural businesses.”
Byrum noted that with an aging road system, the late thaw will hamper spring planting this year.
“Circumstances are unique every year, but producers and agribusinesses will always have a need to get products from Point A to Point B,” said Byrum. “Access to modern rail and water transportation networks will only be more important in the coming years as we continue expanding production. These tools aren’t just key for shipping grain and other products out of Michigan; agribusinesses count on rail and water to get inputs like fertilizer and feed ingredients to the state.”
Following his morning remarks, Green was awarded MABA’s “Legislator of the Year” honor. Byrum highlighted Green’s interest and engagement on agriculture issues, and his efforts to listen to the agriculture community, as key in the decision to honor him as Legislator of the Year.
Throughout the day, agriculture leaders were scheduled to visit with experts on a wide range of issues impacting rail and water transportation for agriculture. These include challenges to rail transport posed during the 2013-14 winter, potential rail service expansion to Port Huron, Great Lakes water quality issues and an update on future port dredging.
In addition to transportation issues specific to Michigan’s Thumb and Saginaw Bay area, leaders from the United States Coast Guard were scheduled to provide an update on efforts to open ports along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to expanded barge traffic. MABA has called for the Coast Guard to update its rules for barge traffic in order to ensure a fair, modern system for water transportation services across Western Michigan.