Cracks in walls could delay April 2016 goal for opening

Cracked walls could cause the opening of the new Panama Canal expansion to be delayed, officials recently announced, pushing off the benefits it could offer U.S. farmers in shipping their crops to international customers.

Officials with the Panama Canal Authority are still aiming for an opening date of April 2016 for the $5.3 billion project, but a delay is possible.

When it opens, the expanded canal will give exporters the opportunity to more efficiently move products to international customers. The soy-checkoff-funded Soy Transportation Coalition estimates that the expanded canal will help increase the annual amount of soybeans going through the canal from 2.1 billion bushels of soybeans to 2.6 billion bushels. This will lower freight costs by an estimated 35 cents per bushel, which is a decrease of 20 percent.

However, in order for U.S. farmers to be able to take full advantage, some U.S. ports must be deepened to accommodate the larger ships that will be able to use the expanded canal.

It is expected that farmers with access to river transportation in states such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa will benefit the most from the larger Panama Canal.