In the words of Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, the incoming Trump Administration could gain the confidence of the American people if it can pull off a “tangible win” in its early days. Steenhoek’s coalition represents 13 state soybean boards and the American Soybean Association and United Soybean Board. He naturally thinks the tangible win should come in the form of a much-needed infrastructure initiative, and it’s the best chance for something tangible.
“It certainly isn’t immigration reform,” he told HAT. “It certainly isn’t Obamacare. It certainly isn’t a Supreme Court nomination. All those things are very important, but as far as the ability to get some kind of bipartisan support, it will be very difficult to do that. I think infrastructure is one of those areas where he can achieve that.”
Steenhoek says such a bill should not only address urban areas, but rural transportation needs too, benefitting a population that undoubtedly helped Trump win. Steenhoek said the starting point in rural America would be those areas the federal government controls.
“Clearly two examples are the conditions of our ports. Yes, ports are administered locally but federal funding does play a meaningful role in enhancing those. For the soybean industry over 50 percent of what is produced is exported, so having an effective system of ports that are properly dredged and maintained is integral to our viability. Certainly, the inland waterway system, the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, the Illinois River, the Arkansas River, with the series of locks and dams that are located throughout that system, that clearly is under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.”
He is optimistic overall about the possibility of improvements being made to the transportation system, and having Governor Mike Pence as Vice President-elect bodes well for agriculture.
“Being from the state of Indiana you’ve got certainly exposure to roads and bridges and our rail infrastructure, but the fact that you’ve got the Ohio River running to the south and all of the barge loading capacity that’s located there, he is knowledgeable about that. That’s always one of the big challenges with the inland waterways is you first have to explain what barge traffic is to a lot policy makers, and you certainly won’t have to do that with the new Vice President.”
The Soy Transportation Coalition stated goal is to position soybean industry stakeholders to benefit from a transportation system that delivers cost effective, reliable, and competitive service. Improvements are needed and Steenhoek believes that the builder in President-elect Donald Trump will lead to a strong push in that area.