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Port of Oswego opens grain-testing lab

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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The Port of Oswego this week formally opened its new grain-testing lab, which is part of its new $15 million grain-export center. (Photo credit: Port of Oswego)

OSWEGO, N.Y. — The Port of Oswego Authority (POA) has opened its grain-testing lab, which is part of the new $15 million grain-export center.

The facility can store up to 22,000 metric tons, or 780,000 bushels. POA formally opened the lab with a ribbon-cutting event on Tuesday.

“This lab is the only one of its kind among our sister Great Lakes ports,” William Scriber, executive director of the Port of Oswego, said in a release. “There are 15 major international ports and some 50 smaller, regional ports on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system.”

The New York State Department of Transportation helped pay for the grain-export center with a $15 million grant. Scores of local workers and tradespeople have helped build the facility, Scriber noted.

The newly opened lab tests each load of grain delivered to the Port of Oswego. To operate it, POA is collaborating with SUNY Oswego, which provides paid student interns to staff the lab. The students are part of a program that’s under the direction of university professor Cleane Medeiros, director of agricultural testing and analysis laboratories.

“The interns’ majors range from chemistry and biochemistry to biology and zoology. We appreciate their assistance and support, while the students gain valuable experience in the field,” Scriber said.

The New York State Department of Agriculture provided a $250,000 grant to help pay for equipment used at the port’s lab and a student-training lab on campus, POA said. Students who participate are part of SUNY Oswego’s new micro credentialing program for grain testing and analysis, which “makes students more marketable and competitive” when seeking top jobs in their field, the POA and SUNY Oswego contend.

The lab handles as many as 40 trucks per day, Medeiros said. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to check each truck’s load.

“In that short span of time, we test four major areas,” Medeiros said. “Moisture level in each load is extremely important because too much moisture can lead to the grain overheating in storage or transport. We also test for damaged grain, which could have heat damage or other issues, and for broken corn and toxins such as vomitoxin. Vomitoxin is exactly what it sounds like. If corn with this toxin is used in food products for humans, they can become violently ill.”

In addition to the “priceless real-world experience,” Medeiros went on to say that students also have opportunities for employment “right after they graduate.” For example, one of the students interviewed for a position this spring with Maumee, Ohio–based The Andersons, Inc., which has a “major” grain contract with the Port of Oswego.

For many years, Oswego was a “major player” both regionally and nationally in grain exports, Scriber said.

That ended the in the early 1980s, when the port’s west pier grain silos were demolished. Moving forward, POA wants to bring Oswego back to its “prominent position” as a major Northeast grain exporter to international markets.

“Because local farmers can deliver their grain locally — instead of trucking them to Ohio or Baltimore — with a relatively short haul to the Port and water transport, this moves 4,513 truck trips off the road and equates to almost $95,470 in saved road-repair costs in the first five years,” Scriber said. “Ships are the most environmentally friendly way to transport goods. For every gallon of fuel per ton of cargo, a ship emits less greenhouse gasses than either truck or rail.”

 

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