Panama Canal expansion could boost U.S. soy's competitive advantage

A looming deadline is fast approaching for U.S. soy's competitive advantage. By the end of December, construction on the Panama Canal expansion will be completed. The eventual opening of this expansion will give exporters the opportunity to more efficiently move products, such as U.S. soybeans, to end users in China and other countries.

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U.S. soy already has an advantage of being the more reliable and often more affordable supplier of soybeans when compared with South American soybeans, so this engineering marvel should only improve these efficiencies. To take advantage of the deeper canal, U.S. ports will need to maintain depth of 45 to 50 feet. These depths allow Panamax vessels, which can carry up to 2 millions bushels, to be loaded to maximum capacity. This is 500,000 additional bushels per load over current ships.

"Most soybean exports that use the canal move through the ports around New Orleans," says Woody Green, soybean farmer from South Carolina. "The projected depth through this area is 45 feet, which leaves room for vessels to be loaded. It's important to maintain this depth."

With the Water Resources Reform and Development Act now in place to provide increased funding for port and inland waterway maintenance, the U.S. agriculture sector is hopeful that major agricultural ports will be ready for the opening of the canal expansion.