OSWEGO – At the Shineman Center at SUNY Oswego on Thursday (Oct. 30), U.S. Senator Charles Schumer launched his push to get the Port of Oswego and SUNY Oswego a special federal designation that would allow the Port of Oswego to export grain and other agriculture products for the first time.
Schumer explained that the port takes in approximately 10 million bushels of grain – soybeans, corn and wheat – each year, and then companies like Perdue send these grains by rail to Virginia where they then export them abroad because the Port of Oswego is not eligible for grain exports.
Schumer said that, if the port were able to get a certificate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture making it eligible to conduct the weighing and inspections required to safely export grain, companies like Perdue would likely instead export out of Oswego and grow their footprint in the area.
Schumer also noted that SUNY Oswego would play a major role in the weighing and inspection process, opening up new opportunities for students and faculty to get hands-on experience and training.
Schumer urged the USDA to provide the Port of Oswego with this special designation, noting that it will create more jobs and help grow the local economy.
“Each and every day, goods like aluminum, cement and salt come in and out of the Port of Oswego, so it makes no sense why grains can come in but cannot be shipped out. The inability to export grains is a lost opportunity for the port and the entire Central New York economy, and I am calling on the USDA to remedy the situation,” said Schumer. “SUNY Oswego and the port have come up with a common-sense solution to provide the weighing and testing that are required in order for grains to be exported. Now all we need is the green light from the USDA. We should not be shipping goods and jobs down to Virginia when there is the need and capability right here. That is why I am calling on the USDA to work with the Port and SUNY to identify the best way to make grain exports a reality. This designation would bring in jobs at the port, on nearby farms, and at the companies that count on the Port each day; and it would provide one-of-a-kind opportunities to students and faculty at SUNY Oswego. I will fight tooth and nail to get this done.”
This year, the Port of Oswego expects to receive and intake 10 million bushels of grain.
However, companies using the port are unable to ship grains back out by water, either domestically or abroad, due to the fact that the port does not have a required designation from the USDA that would make the Port eligible to conduct the necessary weighing and measuring required to ship grains out.
If a company wants to ship grains out by water, someone from Toledo, Ohio, must do the paperwork because Toledo is the nearest port with the required designation.
Schumer said that, if the Port of Oswego were able to conduct this weighing and measuring, companies would increase shipments at the Port because shipping in and out is more attractive and cost-effective than sending goods to Toledo.
Schumer noted that Perdue AgriBusiness, one of the port’s biggest clients, is currently loading a large portion of the grains that come into the port each year onto rail cars and bringing them to Virginia to be exported.
Schumer said that if Perdue could instead use the Port of Oswego to export these products, it would help grow the local economy because Perdue would need to add personnel to handle exports, the port would need to hire more employees, and the local agriculture industry would benefit because they would become more attractive partners for major companies looking to export out of the port.
The senator said there is no need to ship this potential agribusiness outside of New York when the port is fully capable of doing both the intake and export of products; it just needs USDA approval.
According to Perdue, the company is expected to handle 10 million bushels of grain this year due to a productive harvest; Schumer said the Port of Oswego would stand to profit and benefit immensely if it were able to help export these grains.
Schumer explained that there are two types of designations that the port, in collaboration with SUNY, can pursue.
The first is called “delegated” status. It would make New York State – and by extension the Port of Oswego – a certified weigher and grader of exports.
The second option is a designation for smaller ports like Oswego, called “designated” status, where a local entity like SUNY Oswego gets the accreditation it needs to conduct the weighing and testing at a specific port.
Schumer said that both designations could work for the Port of Oswego and help companies ship grains out domestically and internationally, and he urged the USDA to work with the port and SUNY Oswego to identify the best opportunity.
During his visit, which took place at the SUNY Oswego lab at the Shineman Center, Schumer highlighted the role SUNY Oswego students and faculty would play in the weighing and testing process.
Schumer noted that SUNY Oswego has all of the lab equipment needed to handle the required inspection process.
And, if this designation were granted, SUNY Oswego would develop hands-on learning and training opportunities for students and faculty right at the port.
Schumer said this real-world, hands-on laboratory experience for students could translate into future careers with the port, the USDA, other governmental agencies, or private agricultural industry.
Schumer has been a fierce advocate of modernizing and making improvements to the Port of Oswego that would make it even more profitable and increase its ability to do business all over the world.
In 2013, Schumer worked to secure federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funding for Oswego, which allowed it to upgrade its transportation infrastructure.
Over the course of the last several years, Schumer worked to secure federal funding that allowed Oswego to dredge its port, which greatly improved its ability to handle shipments and intake.
Earlier this year, Schumer also secured state-of-the-art equipment for the port, including a new reach stacker – a piece of equipment like a forklift used to unload heavy cargo – a new dump truck, and two new generators.
Schumer secured this equipment through the Federal Surplus Property Program, which was provided to Oswego at no cost to the port.
Schumer said these upgrades have made the Port more ready to handle grain exports.
Now, Schumer says the USDA must step up to the plate and provide this much-needed designation, which would not only increase business for the Port by allowing clients to export, but also keep the port competitive.
Schumer also noted that the port has indicated that it is prepared to enter a new chapter in its development where exportation is a service it can offer clients like Perdue.
In fact, according to the port, clients like Perdue have already expressed interest in exporting and receiving goods at the port so that it might become a one-stop-shop and increase efficiency.
According to the senator, that this is great news for the local workforce and for those students who might be graduating from the partnering SUNY Oswego program and already possess the skills and expertise in the shipping industry necessary to be successful.
He also noted that the global shift in the supply chain in the Panama Canal could be a good opportunity for Oswego to benefit.
Schumer said that the inability to export grain is the port’s Achilles heel and is holding it back from catalyzing more success in Oswego.
The port handles shipments of many goods, including aluminum and cement. However, its inability to export grains is holding the port back, he said.
“Senator Schumer’s push on behalf of the Port of Oswego not only makes sense but is something we’ve been working towards for a long time coming. The senator has been working with us for several years now to turn the page on new chapters of success. Whether it was dredging funds or totally upgrading our rail and infrastructure, Senator Schumer has delivered a silo of resources that has gotten us to the point where we are ready to solicit this request with the USDA,” said Zelko Kirincich, director of the Port of Oswego.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the USDA appears below:
I am writing today to request that the Grain Inspectors Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) work with the Port of Oswego and the State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego to identify opportunities to allow for grain and other agricultural products to be shipped from the Port of Oswego, utilizing the assets of the state-of-the-art port and the SUNY Oswego. I encourage the GIPSA to examine ways to better utilize recent investments and key infrastructure at the Port of Oswego to allow for more efficient flow of goods for commerce.
As you know, the Port of Oswego takes in approximately 10 million bushels of soybeans, corn, and wheat each year, but must ship it to Virginia for export, as it is the nearest state delegated the ability to export these goods. Local companies have expressed interest in using the nearby Port of Oswego for distributing agricultural products more efficiently into commerce and I encourage you to explore this opportunity.
Moreover, the capabilities of the Port of Oswego have recently been expanded. New rail lines and area infrastructure are being installed. This is equipping the port to handle millions of tons of export capacity as opposed to extending the supply chain queue far beyond the State of New York, as things currently stand. This situation is costing the port potential clients and remains an overall opportunity loss we must address. Additionally, with a state academic institution at the ready to assist the USDA, and with the experience to do so, it would make sense to explore a working model with this bustling upstate New York Port.
Again, I encourage you to work with the Port of Oswego, SUNY Oswego, and local businesses to identify opportunities for utilizing the port for the export of agricultural goods. The ability of these business to get their products to market is a fundamental part of the rural and agri-based economy. I encourage you to explore this opportunity to allow for local business and farmers to more efficiently reach markets outside of New York State. Thank you for your attention to this request and I look forward to working with you and the community of Oswego on this important matter.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator