Syracuse Rail Shuttle Hosts International Navy Officers

We call them genetically enhanced

- Wilhelm

SYRACUSE – Military leaders from 30 countries toured Midwest Farmers Cooperative’s new rail shuttle facility at Syracuse on Monday as part of a program known as the Naval Staff College.

The Naval War College in Newport, RI, organizes the one-year course and included stops in Syracuse, STRATCOM and Union Pacific headquarters. The 35 officers asked the co-op’s CEO Jeremy Wilhelm about the 1 million metric tons of grain handled by the company and the use of genetically modified plants.

Wilhelm: “Europe has not typically accepted genetically modified plants. We call them genetically enhanced plants.”

The Syracuse facility has moved out more than 400,000 bushels on train in a single day. It’s dry fertilizer plant can blend 4 tons of fertilizer in 30 seconds and can load a semi-trailer in less than six minutes.

While the rail shuttle is built for speed, American fields are being managed for production. Wilhelm said American  corn yields have grown by 1.9 percent per year over the last two decades, exceeding world population growth.

Wilhelm: “Can we continue to feed the rising population at a price that they can afford with organic? I would argue that we can’t.”

He said U.S. researchers have developed traits in corn plants that help the plants resist drought, utilize fertilizer and deter insects.

He credits precise applications of herbicides and fertilizers for no-till farming, which allows for use of plant material from the previous year and reduces erosion.

He said even more production is needed.

Wilhelm: “We have a population base that is growing relatively significantly, so, you know, from the dawn of time, and I have this on a slide show, until 1800, it took us to 1800 to get 1 billion people in the world. In 2018 we are at 7.6 billion people in the world.

“ In 2030, in 12 years, they are estimating another 1 billion to be 8.6 billion, so the population is growing. Fortunately  the yields are also growing. Neal and Jeff as producers here, their yields continue to grow as we get better technology. And that growth is actually exceeding population growth.”

He said the technology behind the U.S. genetically enhanced program is the answer for providing food that people can afford, but said there continue to be logistical problems so that the grain can get to the markets before it spoils.