AGP’s new Pacific port an investment in
Midwest soybean farms & facilities
By Jim Rodenburg
AGP Communications Director
idwest soybean producers
and their cooperatives
now have their
best-ever access to
Pacific Rim customers,
thanks to AGP’s new export terminal
facility at the Port of Grays Harbor in
Aberdeen, Wash. Last December,
Omaha-based AGP, a federated soybean
processing and marketing cooperative,
loaded its first vessel at Grays
Harbor with 23,000 tons of soybean
meal bound for Australia. Since then,
numerous other shipments of soybean
meal, non-GMO (genetically modified
organism) soybean meal and other specialty
grain products have been exported
to international customers through
the new terminal.
The Grays Harbor facility will help
keep AGP competitive in export
markets, with reduced
costs and shipping
time to the
Pacific Rim, as compared
through the Gulf of
Mexico and other
Pacific Northwest ports.
The terminal also has
the ability to handle
which are becoming
increasingly important in international
markets concerned about food
safety and traceability.
"We’re very pleased with the facility
and proud of the partnership we have
at the Port of Grays Harbor," says
Pete Mishek, AGP’s international trade
manager. "The feedback from customers
has been very positive."
Recently, Mishek and Greg Twist,
AGP’s vice president for marketing,
soy and corn processing, led a trade
mission to the port, which was attended
by buyers and brokers from
the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board
(ISPB). Dick Vegors, marketing manager
of grain and grain co-products,
International Office, Iowa Department
of Economic Development, also joined
First meeting at port
This was the first time a soybean
association and customers had met at
Grays Harbor, during which Mishek
told the ISPB farmer-directors that the
facility is an investment in their markets.
"We want our customers to know
that AGP and Midwestern farmers are
trying to reach them in more efficient
ways every year," Mishek stressed,
AGP has been shipping soybean meal
through the Pacific Northwest for
about 15 years.
The importance of Pacific
Northwest exports has been heightened
by two developments, according
to Mike Zahn, a commodity analyst
who gave the group a briefing on the
grain markets and industry trends:
"These factors set up a real opportunity
for West Coast shipments,"
- The ascension of China as a major
importer of goods such as steel
and grain. This strong demand
has resulted in ocean freight rates
reaching record levels, magnifying
the advantages of the most costeffective
- U.S. soybean production heading
west, with dramatic increases in
soybean acreage in Minnesota,
Nebraska, North Dakota and
South Dakota over the past several
AGP’s custom-built facility on
Terminal 2 at the port is the closest,
most direct route from its processing
plants in the Midwest to Pacific Rim
customers. Gary Nelson, executive
director of the Port of Grays Harbor,
says the deep-water port is two hours
from open sea, compared to 12 hours
from other Pacific Northwest export
facilities located on the Columbia
The Port of Grays Harbor made
several modifications at Terminal 2 to
handle AGP’s design criteria for
Panama Canal-sized vessels. These
included berth expansion, a heavier
fender system and upgraded mooring
dolphins to secure larger vessels than
the logging ships the port has traditionally
Rail system key to operation
The rail system is an integral part of
the operation. The Puget Sound and
Pacific Railroad, a short-line railroad
serving the port, connects with both
the Burlington Northern Santa Fe
(BNSF) and Union Pacific (UP) railroads.
A new, 8,000-foot looped track
was built around the terminal in order
to move cars continuously through the
unloading facility without switching.
AGP also has a staging area that will
hold approximately 300 railcars prior
to the arrival of a vessel.
During unloading, Nelson points
out that product is fully covered from
the receiving building to the ship,
helping maintain product quality.
Railcars are emptied two at a time over
a 100-foot-long receiving pit, and the
product moves along on air-supported
conveyors to a scale and automatic
sampler. This high-speed conveying
system has no cracks or crevasses to
retain product, while brushes and air
jets continually clean the belt.
A mobile loader that traverses the
length of the dock to load the ship is
another feature of the terminal. This
allows the ship to remain stationary,
saving on fuel and crew costs, as well
as reducing loading time.
The terminal is equipped to meet or
exceed international standards for
weights and grades, and can be washed
and cleaned after each shipment to
meet requirements for identity-preserved
Market success hinges on
quality and timeliness
"What makes the whole
thing work is the people here at
the port," says Mishek. "The
work ethic and commitment
from the longshoremen and
port management is superb. We
have great partners."
Those partners include
Midwest soybean producers, who are
represented by associations such as the
Iowa Soybean Promotion Board
"The ISPB has been very interested
in the Grays Harbor project from the
early stages, as exports are extremely
important to the soybean industry,"
says Grant Kimberley, market development
manager. "For U.S. producers to
stay competitive with South America,
we must guarantee consistency, quality
and timely service. And that’s what this
new port facility can do."
The ISPB has worked with AGP to
bring in potential international customers
so they can see the whole
process from the very beginning on
the farm, to the elevator, to the processor
and then on out to the port facility.
"We are trying to show customers
that we are serious about meeting their
needs, listening to their concerns and
showing them what we can accomplish,"
Vegors was equally enthused about
the opportunities the port terminal
represents for Iowa and Midwest agriculture.
"As we get to see more gene
stacking and specialty traits of grain
that companies in foreign countries are
desiring, the ability to clean out the
facility and turn it from one product to
another makes it ideal for the IP
process," Vegors says.
During the visit to the port, Greg
Twist told the Indonesian contingent
about AGP’s success working with
member cooperatives and their farmer
owners to produce, process and deliver
identity-preserved products, such as
non-GMO soybean meal. He also says
the quality of soybeans can be raised
through AGP’s approved variety program.
"Spending time developing face-toface
relationships with international
buyers -- such as the Indonesians, who
represent some of the largest consumers
of soybean meal in the world
-- is a very valuable investment," Twist
says. "I think they were very impressed
with the port facility and realized that
U.S. farmers take a real interest in supplying
quality and meeting or exceeding
their needs. It’s all about bringing
value to our customers in order to
increase exports, and that value
includes a competitive and efficient
For more information about AGP’s
export terminal, go online to:
Co-op boosting yields of protein, oil
In addition to gaining greater access to foreign markets
for its members, AGP is also striving to add value
to its products by encouraging farmers to enroll in its
Approved Variety Program, which promotes planting
soybean varieties that produce higher-than-average
yields of oil and protein .
through approved variety program
Leon Wojahn, a northwest Iowa soybean producer,
has planted 200 acres of soybeans with AGP-approved
varieties, a four-fold increase from his participation
level last year.
"“I contracted 50 acres in the program last year
through my local cooperative, MaxYield Cooperative, to
try it out. I had a good experience," says Wojahn.
"Those nickels add up."
By planting and contracting AGP-approved varieties
through participating member cooperatives, producers
are guaranteed component premiums of at least 5
cents a bushel. These soybean varieties have historical
data showing potential for achieving desirable oil
and protein levels.
"I think we’ve proven that it’s a fairly easy program
[launched in 2003] to comply with, as producers are not
necessarily required to make big shifts from what
they’re already planting," says Greg Twist, AGP marketing
vice president for soy and corn processing.
"We’re starting to make some headway in raising producers’
awareness of what they’re putting in the field.
They’re asking questions about oil and protein content,
which is now becoming a front-burner issue for seed
companies as they develop new soybean varieties and
work on their genetics."
While some varieties on the approved list for 2003
failed to make the grade for 2004, Twist says even more
new varieties have been added, giving producers
increased planting options under the program.
"A good feature of the program is that some of the
varieties already popular in this area are included,"
says Gary Strube, general manager, Great Lakes Cooperative
in Everly, Iowa. "It’s an easy way for a producer
to pick up $2.50 an acre, based on 50-bushel beans. We
think it’s a good program for soybean farmers and it
has helped boost our seed sales."
Cooperative managers of participating cooperatives
are taking the opportunity to report to their
board not only about local earnings, but also additional
premiums that their members receive for contracting
approved varieties. "This revenue doesn’t necessarily
show up in the cooperative’s bottom line, but it
is having a positive economic impact on its members,"
By Jim Rodenburg
Agriliance to operate major terminal at Port of Galveston
To help it better provide wholesale dealers with
crop nutrients, Agriliance has signed a lease with the
Port of Galveston to operate a general-purpose bulk
cargo terminal. Agriliance, a joint venture owned by
CHS Inc. and Land of Lakes, will enter a 15-year lease
with the port, with an option for seven additional threeyear
By mid-2008, Agriliance
expects to ship more than
800,000 tons of cargo annually
through the terminal.
"With the Port of Galveston,
we’re enhancing our crop nutrients
across all U.S. markets, especially
for rail shipments to western
regions," says George
Thornton, Agriliance president
and chief executive officer. He
says Agriliance also anticipates
that moving shipments through
Galveston will allow the company
to divert some rail loads from
Mississippi River terminals,
thereby helping ease river bottlenecks.
"We began importing bulk
product in 2003 through a port
in Louisiana," he continues.
"Expansion into Galveston is an
integral part of our company’s
import strategy, which is
expected to increase significantly
in the near term."
Steven M. Cernak, port director, says "This agreement
will allow the Port of Galveston to increase our
cargo throughput, which will result in increased
employment at the facility and at other ancillary companies
servicing the new terminal."
Agriliance will operate as a general-purpose bulk
cargo terminal that will initially receive only inbound
products. The longer-term goal
is to make improvements to
allow for both import and
export operations. Potential
cargoes include bulk fertilizer
products, bulk agricultural
products, bulk grains and grain
bulk minerals or mineral products
and non-hazardous chemicals.
Pier 35/36, the old Imperial
Sugar Docks, was previously
leased to River Materials LLC.
With the signing of the agreement,
Agriliance acquires the
use of the terminal and purchases
the assets of River
Agriliance LLC markets
crop nutrients, crop protection
products, and seed and crop
technical services to farmers
and ranchers through local
cooperatives and independent
dealers in all 50 states, Canada