TEGMA Marks 100 Years and Warns of Challenges in Upcoming Years

Kansas City, MO (September 14, 2018)– In addition to observing its 100th anniversary during the two-day annual Fall 2018 Symposium, the Transportation, Elevator & Grain Merchants Association (TEGMA) had a full agenda of association business, committee meetings and receptions. The meeting, held jointly with the National Grain Car Council (NGCC), took place at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, and drew more than 120 attendees.

During Friday’s final session, speakers addressed concerns and issues facing TEGMA companies, including trade, labor, emerging technology in the form of AI and block chain, the challenges of uncertainty and how rail carrier Union Pacific resources its equipment and people for reliability. Shannon Herzfeld, vice president of government relations for Archer Daniels Midland Company, provided an insider’s view of the goings-on in Washington D.C. Kevin Van Trump, founder and president of Farm Direction and the Van Trump Report, offered perspectives on staying competitive in a commoditized social and economic environment.

Tightening margins, aging river systems and facilities and extreme weather conditions are serious challenges to grain trading and transportation companies, said Greg Beck, senior vice president-grain at CGB Enterprises. “The U.S. is losing market share to the world as other countries gain share more quickly.” He noted the U.S. should be aware of large increases in acreage which can be brought into production in Brazil. As for a competitive advantage the U.S. may have, it is in freight hauling. “The U.S. is the cheapest supplier to export channels; no other country has our advantages,” Beck said, adding that inland river transportation is the most efficient.

Following up on Beck’s claim about the freight advantage, Grant Janke, assistant vice president of network planning and operations at Union Pacific, described the processes involved in keeping UP running reliably to meet shippers’ needs. Having the right resources in the right place at the right time is key, and those resources are the workforce, main rail lines, locomotives, terminals and freight cars. Coordinating these resources and implementing their capabilities requires a bi-annual planning process and cross departmental exercises.

Van Trump gave a futuristic overview of changing attitudes and behavior among millennials, and noted several emerging trends that will impact agriculture, such as the rapid advancement of technology in the ag space and how quickly its spreading across the globe. Dramatic changes in transportation could widely impact agriculture. He wondered how the grain transportation industry might be affected if Hyperloop tubes were able to move tons of grain from the Heartland to the Pacific Northwest in a matter of hours or minutes.

Herzfeld cautioned that the real news coming out of Washington is often not in the headlines but in the back story. She said that Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump are both deeply involved in the trade dispute and resolution might not come quickly. She advised reading “gloomy headlines with a grain of salt.” A lot is getting done in Washington, she said, and in the end, America needs China and China needs America.

TEGMA is a North American trade association focusing its expertise and advocacy on transportation and infrastructure policy that promotes efficiency, competition, and safety in handling and transporting of North American grain and grain products. Producers depend on an effective and economic transportation system to deliver their products to domestic and world consumers.