Panama Canal: Why it Matters to an Ohio Grain Farmer

I was fortunate to represent the Ohio Corn Marketing Program (OCMP), along with a few of our officers and board members, at the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) 9th International Marketing Conference and 52nd Annual Membership Meeting in Panama February 13, 14 and 15.

The meeting is for state checkoff organizations and U.S. agribusinesses to discuss and plan for opportunities and challenges facing U.S. grain exports.

The Panama Canal is strategically significant to all exporting countries. Governments throughout the world count on it as a vital channel for most international trade opportunities, making the maintenance of its infrastructure critical.

A new generation of ships, called Post Panamax vessels, will haul three times the freight of current Panamax vessels. These new, larger ships will change the cost of shipping grain throughout the world, but don’t fit through the current canal locks and can’t navigate some of the current canal turns. Therefore, it’s being expanded.

This new era of transportation represents great opportunities for US grain exports.

But, many implications are hindering America’s ability to maintain its footing as a principal global-trade powerhouse, including tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, foreign production and export subsidies and price competition from aggressive competitors in Argentina, Brazil and the Black Sea region, which are increasing production in response to high global prices for corn and other feed grains.

The canal expansion affects every farmer. It allows competition in a world market to keep American farmers profitable. It’s perfectly clear that we need to support more aggressive engagement in trade policy issues. One council member said it best, “The U.S. cannot take market dominance for granted.”

Highlights of the meeting included:

  • CEO of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Alberto Alemán Zubieta, shared his expertise
  • Christian Foster, deputy administrator for the Office of Trade Programs at USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), offered insights with his presentation “Strategic Priorities for U.S. Trade Leadership”
  • Discussions were had about the specifics of the canal’s current infrastructure expansions and upgrades
  • Tour of the construction site
  • Farmer leaders met to guide the council’s global vision and tactics for competing in a dynamic new market environment

Experiences like this remind us that every farmer in Ohio is competing in a global market. Maintaining U.S.-exports dominance is one of many factors effecting individual farm profitability. Ohio’s corn checkoff investment and grower involvement in the USGC is our recognition of this important market and of our commitment to developing market opportunities throughout the world.

View photos of the annual meeting in Panama.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.


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