Container shipping, traceability get focus on Day 2 of GTE

By Shane Frederick, SSGA Communications Manager

The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance led the discussion on two topics vitally important to its members on Wednesday, Day 2 of the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange & Specialty Grains Conference (GTE).

SSGA, which is co-hosting the Virtual GTE with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), held two breakout sessions: “Container Shipping Landscape – The New Reality” and “Traceability – Trusting the Quality of Food You Demand.”


The container shipping breakout, sponsored by the Illinois Soybean Association, was moderated by Bob Sinner, President of SB&B Foods, SSGA Vice-Chair and Chair of SSGA’s Competitive Shipping action team. Panelists included Roger Mortenson, Vice President of Grain Millers Specialty Products; Uffe Ostegaard, President, North America, of Hapag-Lloyd; Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles; and Peter Friedmann, Executive Director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.

The discussion centered around concerns about container availability and quality of containers for inland U.S. exporters; reliability of on-time service by ocean carriers; as well as logistics in the areas of truck, rail and ocean shipping, especially as consumer demands have changed and the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the marketplace and global supply chains.

The panel agreed that communication among buyers, suppliers, shippers and transportation providers as important as ever.

“Communication is the most vital aspect of our business,” Mortenson said. “Understanding all the pieces is critical. We need to take a team approach. As U.S. soybean suppliers, we have great relationships with our logistical partners. We’re talking, listening and working to support the common goal.”

Seroka advocated for more digital technology such as a data-driven, nationwide port communication system, one that lines up with trucking and rail schedules and can help get containers where they need to be in the rural U.S.

“It’s all about dialogue and collaboration,” he said. “It’s still a relationship-based business.”

Ostegaard said overall on-time reliability has been improving gradually, although canceled sailings could go up again in the fourth quarter. Ostegaard and Friedmann predicted ocean freight rates for exports to remain stable for the foreseeable future.


Curt Petrich, SSGA Chairman

The traceability breakout was moderated by Curt Petrich, founder of HC International and SSGA Chair. Panelists included Rob Prather, Chief Strategic Ambassador of Global Processing; Chris Crawford, Senior Market Manager for The Scoular Company; Jeff Fjelstul, Director of Sales for AGI Suretrack; and Will McNair, Director of Human Utilization for USSEC.

The panelists explained how the container and identity-preserved (IP) traceability system works and advocated for its benefits throughout the value chain.

Prather said he’s trying change perceptions of IP and traceability, showing farmers, processors, distributors and food producers alike that changes to their routines and extra work and costs are worth it in the end as consistency, efficiency and quality increase customer confidence, brand loyalty and profits.

“The positives greatly outweigh the negatives,” he said. “And it’s not as much trouble as you think.”

Crawford demonstrated an analysis of two varieties of tofu beans with similar characteristics. The bean in the traceable, segregated IP system had a significantly higher yield over time.

Technology is pushing the IP system forward with tools such as the AGI Suretrack system other new digital solutions.

“The market is demanding greater transparency,” Crawford said.

Also, McNair talked about a new U.S. Soyfoods Database currently in the works that will give an overview of varieties and quality. A workgroup of more than 15 stakeholders, including SSGA staff and leadership, has met six times already this year. McNair said the hope is to have some data available this winter and the Database up and running by the 2021 GTE.

What’s ahead?

Thursday is the final day of the GTE, and sessions include SSGA’s breakout session on the Food Soya Exporter Outlook. That session, which begins at 9 a.m. CDT (and again at 7:30 p.m. CDT) features SSGA Executive Director Eric Wenberg, The Redwood Group’s Adam Buckentine, Star of the West’s Steve Herr, Brushvale Seed’s Travis Meyer and Montague Farms’ Tom Taliaferro.

Other sessions Thursday include:

  • 2021 Tokyo Paralympic-hopeful Kevan Hueftle’s inspirational story of overcoming adversity. Hueftle is a farmer and rancher from Nebraska, who has competed as a sprinter in the Para-Pan-Am Games and Para-Athletics World Championships.
  • USSEC’s breakout session on U.S. Soy oil.
  • Trade policy talk with U.S. Trade Representative, Chief Agricultural Negotiator Gregg Doud.
  • Market outlook and strategies to position with ConsiliAgra’s Emily French.
  • Closing remarks from Wenberg and USSEC CEO Jim Sutter.

Sessions are repeated each day starting at 7 p.m. CDT to accommodate busy schedules and multiple time zones.

Go to the GTE website to learn more and to see the full agenda. Use the hashtag #USSOYexchange on social media to find out more information.