By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — Hurricane Sandy left more than 100 people dead along the Mid-Atlantic coastline and caused billions in damages, according to press-time estimates. Bridges, subways and tunnels were closed following the storm’s landfall, trapping many urban residents in their homes as rescue and recovery efforts ensued.
Days after the storm left its imprint on the coastline, the Port of New York and New Jersey – whose terminals comprise the third largest container shipping port in the United States – had been reopened to only limited movements. But transportation experts agree agricultural shipments into and out of the Corn Belt will not be greatly affected.
“I haven’t heard much regarding disruption of ag movements due to Hurricane Sandy, but not a lot of ag exports leave from that part of the country,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Ankeny, Iowa-based Soy Transportation Coalition. “Only 3 percent of soybeans, 2.1 percent of wheat and 0.6 percent of corn exports leave via the Atlantic coast. In contrast, 58 percent of soybeans, 15 percent of wheat and 59 percent of corn exports leave via the Mississippi Gulf. Twenty-two percent of soybeans, 43 percent of wheat and 21 percent of corn depart from the Pacific Northwest. The Port of New York-New Jersey does have a few transload facilities at which grain is loaded from trucks or railcars into containers for export, but it is a small amount.”
The Corn Belt, which includes much of Farm World’s readership area, relies primarily on the inland waterways and rail transport to the Northwest for exportation of agricultural commodities, with the exception of areas in Ohio.
“Agricultural shipments will not be affected significantly,” said Scott Sigman, transportation and infrastructure lead for the Illinois Soybean Assoc. “The ports of Baltimore or Norfolk serve as more of a gateway for products going to Europe. In some of the more Southern areas, say Cincinnati, they may go through Savannah or Charleston. Manufacturing goods flowing both inbound and outbound are certainly going to be affected. But volumes are generally down because of the European challenges. They are limiting their trade.”
Imports of farm products such as chemicals and fertilizers should likewise not be affected. Brian Waddell, finance officer and fertilizer manufacturer representative for MARCO N.P.K., Inc. of Clinton, Ill., said farmers shouldn’t worry about deliveries of agricultural chemicals from Mid-Atlantic ports to the Corn Belt.
“It really doesn’t have a big impact, as most fertilizer imports we get come up from the Port of New Orleans, and even then, UAN (liquid nitrogen) is mainly not used until spring. As far as logistics and supply of fertilizer, Sandy will not have an impact,” said Waddell, who also serves on the board of directors for the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Assoc. “Ohio will get some liquid N railed off of the East Coast, but not until spring. Dry fertilizer and phosphate fertilizer arrive through the river system and potash and other fertilizers come from Canada by rail. The impact will (affect) the application season, due to all of the rain. I think getting the fall work done would be more of an issue.”
One of the busiest ports in the world, the Port of New York and New Jersey handled more than three million cargo containers during 2011, which carried merchandise worth $175 billion into the Northeast. Recovery and cleanup efforts continue at the port, according to the NY-NJ Port Authority website.