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barges carrying grain down river Ed Metz/Hemera/Thinkstock
River barge tows

Groundbreaking held for Missouri River port

Port to annually accommodate 240,000 tons of soybeans, corn, dried distillers grains, fertilizer and other materials.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, industry stakeholders and NEW Cooperative officials attended a groundbreaking ceremony for an $11 million project to construct a new barge loading and unloading terminal along the Missouri River near Blencoe, Iowa, which is located between Council Bluffs and Sioux City, Iowa.

According to Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, who also attended the groundbreaking, NEW Cooperative’s port facility will initially provide a new marketing option for 4 million bu. of soybeans produced in western Iowa and 6-8 million bu. as demand increases.

It will be serviced approximately 17 times a year by a fleet usually comprised of six to nine barges and a single towboat. The facility is expected to annually accommodate 240,000 tons of soybeans, corn, dried distillers grains, dry fertilizers, agricultural lime, scrap metal and rock. Steenhoek said this will allow high-volume freight to be shifted from Iowa's roads to a navigable waterway.

“Any opportunity to decrease the number of those logistical steps will translate into farmers receiving a greater economic value for the soybeans they produce,” Steenhoek said. “As a farmer-owned and -led company, NEW Cooperative’s investment in a new supply chain option essentially shortens the distance between the farmer and the overseas customer. There will be more money in a farmer’s wallet as a result.”

The company said the 38-acre site will be accessible by a hard service road from Interstate 29, making this facility the largest and most northern port on the Missouri River. When completed, the port will have the capacity to load and unload up to six barges at a time.

“The port will give us direct access to the export market and provide a fourth outlet for our customers' grain,” the company noted. “In addition, fertilizers, aggregates and other commodities will be shipped into the site to be stored and marketed through wholesale partners as well as to NEW’s customer base, further expanding our fertilizer storage capacities in our western region.”

 With the increase in rail rates over the last several years, having this option to bring fertilizer into NEW Cooperative and export grain out will make the Port of Blencoe a valuable asset for years to come, the company added.

“We hope this will bring the world to western Iowa,” NEW Cooperative general manager Dan Dix stated.

The new port is expected to be operational late this fall, with a limited number of barges to actually be loaded with soybeans for the export market as early as November or December 2020.

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