South Dakota farmers participating in South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s See for Yourself mission found themselves at TEMCO on day two. Located at the Port of Tacoma, TEMCO is a 50-50 joint venture between CHS and Cargill. During a typical year, TEMCO will handle 5 MMT of grain with 60% of that product being soybeans. Most shipping of soybeans takes place between October to December with all of the soybean exports destined for China.
Many factors come into play when a port distinguishes between a good year and a bad year. Last year, TEMCO did not ship anything for five months. The demand was not there because of a strong U.S. dollar and the bumper crop in Brazil and Argentina.
This year has been better in regards to demand and activity at TEMCO. The group saw South Dakota corn loading a ship destined for Japan, while touring the facility. The ship holds an estimated 2.5 million bushels of corn. On average, it takes an estimated $12-$16 per ton to ship the product to its final overseas destination.
“The visit to TEMCO was eye-opening for me,” stated Garretson farmer, Peter Bakken. “This visit showed me how critical logistics, timing, and good infrastructure is to maintain the quality and integrity of our soybeans from the rural elevator to our overseas customers.”
Following TEMCO, the group traveled to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is the lead federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s offshore living marine resources and their habitat. This arm of the organization conducts research on developing alternative feeds for aquaculture farm uses.
With the continued increase in fishmeal prices, the ability to farm fish will depend on affordable alternative feeds. NOAA’s current study includes the evaluation of gut health of soybean fed for sablefish. Currently, the group has seen success with a 20% soybean inclusion rate in the feed ration. Commercial feed for sablefish is estimated at $.90-$1.00 per pound. However, feed with soybeans included can be purchased at $.44 – $.50 per pound.
“At NOAA we had the opportunity to learn how our checkoff dollars can be used for further research to improve the usability of soybean meal in aquaculture diets as well as the affordability of feed for the industry,” said Bakken.
Finishing the See for Yourself experience, the group visited BNSF Railway at the Seattle International Gateway Intermodal Facility. The Seattle International Gateway Intermodal Facility is a major hub for transportation of not only ag products but also coal and many consumer products from companies like Walmart, Target, and Amazon.
Annually, BNSF moves one million units of agriculture products including corn, wheat, soybeans, barley, oats, rye, flax, oils and meals. BNSF experienced a challenging 2013-2014 year due to increased demand in its industrial market. Demand has evened out since 2014, providing the company an opportunity to work on ways to improve infrastructure. Last year, BNSF spent $16 Billion dollars on improvements which they hope will help in times of increased rail traffic demands.
The group started their journey back to South Dakota excited about what they saw while looking forward to sharing stories of the experience with friends, family and fellow farmers.