Mike Steenhoek is executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. The coalition, established in 2007, is comprised of the United Soybean Board, the American Soybean Association and 12 state soybean boards. The coalition works to promote a cost effective, reliable and competitive transportation system that serves the agriculture industry.
Steenhoek also serves on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s advisory committee on supply chain competitiveness, the Transportation Research Board’s committee on inland water transportation and the Iowa Department of Transportation’s freight advisory council.
Before working for the Soy Transportation Coalition, Steenhoek worked for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley for eight years, working in Washington, D.C., and Des Moines. He worked as the senator’s scheduler and speechwriter in Washington, D.C., and as the senator’s director of economic development in Des Moines. He earned his undergraduate degree and masters in business administration from the University of Iowa.
MFT: What type of work does the Soy Transportation Coalition do?
STEENHOEK: The Soy Transportation Coalition promotes a cost-effective and reliable transportation system for farmers and the broader agricultural industry. We are actively engaged in each of the key modes of transportation that allow what farmers produce to get to their customers – whether domestic or international. Our various initiatives include promoting more economical methods for replacing and repairing rural bridges, increased investment in the inland waterway system, more reliable rail service, and enhancement of our port infrastructure.
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MFT: What is the importance of an effective transportation system for the soybean industry?
STEENHOEK: For farmers to be profitable, it is not sufficient to simply grow a crop, and it is not sufficient to have demand for that crop. We must also have an effective connection between supply and demand. Our multi-modal transportation system provides that connectivity. We must therefore have a well-maintained infrastructure that provides cost-effective and reliable transportation to our domestic and international customers.
MFT: What are some of the key transportation challenges and obstacles to overcome right now?
STEENHOEK: Even with increased funding from the federal government, the supply chain that serves agriculture requires significant investment. Inflation is also eroding much of the purchasing power of the funding currently being deployed to infrastructure projects. A lack of reliability of rail service continues to challenge agriculture and other shippers. Low water conditions along the Mississippi River and other inland waterways, while not as extreme as it was in the fall of 2022, continue to impede barge shipping.
MFT: What do you enjoy most about working for the Soy Transportation Coalition?
STEENHOEK: Working on behalf of soybean farmers is one of delights of my entire professional career. It is motivating to pursue opportunities to enhance the supply chain agriculture relies on. When we are able to move the needle in a positive direction in any of these areas, farmers benefit.