As we dodged potholes and slogged through the sinking soft spots of our gravel road this spring, it was obvious that our rural roads are out of sync with the times. The heavy snowmelt and rains, coupled with hauling grain, took a toll. The same roads that once provided passage for the horse and wagon are now the arteries that carry hundreds of 1,000-bu. semi loads of corn and soybeans!
That’s four times as many bushels as in the single-axle grain trucks my dad used when I was growing up in the 1960s, not to mention that the total number of bushels being hauled out is exponentially larger. The weight of today’s trucks and equipment—and the frequency of the traffic—was unfathomable when these roads were built.
Our county road crews do the best they can—and lucky for us, they do better than most. That doesn’t change the fact that agriculture is facing a quiet crisis over our national infrastructure. Protecting our ability to meet the world’s demand for food means we have to have a modern infrastructure that reaches from your farm to the food we eat. Our new From Field to Port series provides a reality check on the state of our infrastructure.
With more than 4 million miles of roads, an interstate highway system that dates back to President Eisenhower, 600,000 bridges (many of which are outdated) and aging railways and ports, our country has daunting challenges. We plan to use this multimedia series to examine those challenges and to be a catalyst for conversations and actions that put a priority on making sure our infrastructure keeps pace. Our food depends on it.
- October 2011