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NDTO News Article

Midwest Specialty Grains Conference and Trade Show Provides Insight for ND Agricultural Companies

North Dakota Trade Office representatives attended the eighth annual Midwest Specialty Grains Conference & Trade Show, held in Seattle August 22-24, 2011.  This event, which is usually held in Minneapolis, put a global spotlight on the soybean and grain production capabilities of the Upper Midwest and on the shipping and infrastructure needs and opportunities we have in meeting the world’s demand for high-quality food.

NDTO attended the event with hopes of gaining valuable insight on how to advance shipping methods for North Dakota companies.

“Shipping is an important topic for North Dakota companies, especially our value-added agriculture producers who are exporting internationally.  The industry is constantly evolving, and we need to keep our finger on the pulse.  The Midwest Specialty Grains Conference & Trade Show allowed us to meet with shipping experts from around the world and provided a place for buyers and sellers to congregate and discuss efficient shipping methods,” NDTO Director of International Management Mark Johnson said.

The event is hosted annually by the Midwest Shippers Association (MSA), a regional trade association established to expand value-added opportunities for farmers and the agribusiness, grain and international shipping service industries located throughout North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The conference featured tours of the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle and presentations on international port developments, export grain inspections services for containerized grain shipping, the latest developments in the expansion of bulk grain export shipping capacity in the Pacific Northwest and inland intermodal shipping new developments.

Attendees were able to see firsthand how Upper Midwest grain and oilseed products are exported to world markets and learn about international container ship loading, bulk grain vessel loading, rail container and grain hopper car handling at our primary export ports.  It also featured MSA’s first ‘Grain Export Shipping Conference’ and provided valuable information for North Dakota companies involved in exporting IP soybeans and grains.

“The Midwest Specialty Grains Conference attacks the hot-button issues in the shipping industry for soy, beans and lentils; it has gotten the attention of buyers because it discusses issues like transportation and the movement of grains and other agribusiness products,” said Bob Sinner, president of SB&B Foods, Inc.  “The event also interests buyers, not only from an agenda point-of-view, but because it is a venue for international buyers to meet suppliers.

Foreign market presentations were given by visiting delegations on China’s Food Soybean Market; Southeast Asia feed and commodity markets; Japan and Taiwan DDGS/Corn markets; and Wheat and Specialty Grain Export Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MEANA) countries.

Container shipments were a hot topic at this year’s event and experts discussed how to secure containers for products being exported from the Midwest.

“For those exporters that are relying on container equipment, supply is expected to be short the first quarter of 2012.  This has created concerns for exporters in North Dakota and the upper Midwest,” said Sinner. “The best advice for these companies is to communicate with their freight forwarders or carriers to make sure they understand your needs and container demand for the coming season.”

The MSA is already planning a 2012 conference to continue helping Upper Midwest companies assess their shipping needs.

For more information contact Mark Johnson at