American farmers are producing at record levels, and international customers are purchasing more than ever.

But the question is: Can our nation’s transportation system move grain from farm to port with the speed and efficiency that today’s international trade demands? The answer is rapidly becoming a glaring “NO.”

Surplus masked inefficiency

For decades, U.S. farmers raised more grain than global customers were buying, so the nation could live with inefficiencies in moving it to port via truck, rail or barge. By 2002, however, world demand decreased the surplus, and U.S. infrastructure deficiencies started to become more apparent — and problematic.

The United States must place greater priority on the movement of freight because the aging U.S. transportation system is not keeping up with today’s pace of international trade, according to two infrastructure experts who addressed the U.S. Grains Council International Marketing Conference & Annual Membership Meeting in New Orleans.

Wake up call on infrastructure

Kurt Nagle, CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, and Ken Eriksen, senior vice-president at Informa Economics, said the country needs a wake up call on its infrastructure.

“A nation is judged by its infrastructure, and the United States is getting worse by the year, if not the day,” Nagle said, whose organization represents 160 port authorities in the Western Hemisphere.

“We need an attitude adjustment about infrastructure,” Eriksen said. In a world where communication is instantaneous, and overnight delivery of packages is standard operating procedure, transportation of freight is not keeping up.