Decaying river infrastructure is a major concern for corn farmers, according to the National Corn Growers Association. There’s no question the locks and dams on the Mississippi River are aging, and NCGA believes upgrading needs to be a priority for Congress.
In a USDA study conducted by the University of Tennessee, findings show if there were an interruption at Lock and Dam No. 25 on the Mississippi River would result in a combined $3.7 billion loss in labor income and economic activity, as well as the loss of more than 7,000 jobs.
On AgriTalk, Paul Roadie, vice president of the Midwest region of the Waterways Council Inc. said this study did a great job in shining a light on the issues. He went on to say rivers are a forgotten “R” in transportation, alongside railways, roads, and runways.
He said this is a problem for everyone, not just for agriculture.
“Anybody that flips a switch on a wall and expects the light to come on is impacted by barge traffic,” said Roadie.
Roughly 60 percent of grain the U.S. exports travels through waterways, according to Ken Hartman, chair of NCGA. On the Mississippi River, there are 36 locks and dams. Of those, 28 on the upper Mississippi are in charge of central and Midwest grain shipments going to New Orleans, La.
If there were a broken lock anywhere on the river, especially the LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois River, roughly 80 miles south east of Peoria, Hartman said it would cause the grain above a broken lock to drop the basis and demand.
Nationally, there’s over $8 billion in backlogged construction, according to Roadie, including new construction that was authorized 10 years ago that would modernize and rehabilitate the lock and dam system. The LaGrange Lock is a top priority since it was built more than 80 years ago.
NCGA has worked tirelessly to get WRDA bills passed by Congress, however Hartman said they can’t get the funding from the government to finance these projects. Roadie wants to continue to educate Congress on the cheapest, most environmentally friendly, and fuel efficient way of transportation.
“If we spent that money on actual construction to improve the lock system, we’d be going somewhere as a country,” said Roadie.
Listen to Roadie and Hartman discuss the lock and dam infrastructure problems on AgriTalk above.