What the Panama Canal means to agriculture

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DSC01579What does agriculture and the tropics have in common? The Panama Canal – the highway of agricultural products from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

I had the great opportunity to experience it this past week. As my involvement with the US Grains Council has increased, so have my opportunities to see the importance of agriculture to the world (you may remember the corn mission through the Council that I traveled with to Asia in 2010).

Traveling through the Panama Canal and getting a first hand view of the new Canal expansion site was a highlight of the Council’s International Marketing Conference held in Panama City. I held the honor of serving on the Membership and Communications Advisory Team to help launch the new branding initiative, fresh and new with an updated logo and vibrant, user-friendly website (launching in the upcoming week).

DSC01577An excursion from the conference allowed attendees to enjoy a beautiful, balmy evening on a dinner cruise through the Panama Canal and through the locks from the Pacific side going inland to Gatun Lake. What was astonishing to me was that the locks, which have been installed and working since 1914, are the same and have not been replaced. Can you imagine all that it took to carve out the canal back in the early 1900’s without the technology we have today, and it is all still in working shape?!

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The expansion of the Canal will not only allow for vessels to travel through the Canal more efficiently, but think of the opportunities for exports of Ag products from and to the US! The expansion is going to be a wider and longer "lane" that will allow larger vessels to travel through on both sides – the Atlantic and Pacific sides. The world is truly changing ( and seems to get smaller all the time) but this is an exciting time for us in agriculture to experience how the Canal has and will continue to bring our ag products to the dinner plates of our foreign customers.

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I was also grateful that my mom traveled along with me to experience Panama and see the Canal. There were many references during the Grains Council meeting about the Panama Canal being featured in the Weekly Reader and my mom has had an interest in it since seeing that in 5th grade!IMG_1591

View all of my pictures on my online photo album.

Read here about how the Canal expansion works.

Read here the history of building the Panama Canal.

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