Editor's Notebook: Rivers Are For More Than Fishing

November 5, 2016 02:00 AM
Editor's Notebook: Rivers Are For More Than Fishing

Taking our home surroundings for granted is human nature. So, I’m sure I’m not alone in taking for granted the great Mississippi River during all those years growing up near its banks in St. Louis. The muddy water has been a backdrop to my life, and, like most backdrops, it’s never received much of my attention. Until now.

What first convinced me of its importance was learning the hard way the only thing most foreigners know about America’s Midwest is Al Capone’s Chicago and Mark Twain’s Mississippi River.

Then I learned about the river’s importance to U.S. agriculture, and my days of taking the Mighty Mississippi for granted as a personal backdrop came to an abrupt end.

My colleague Chip Flory, host of Market Rally, is taking a turn writing the cover story this issue on that great river system. Its aging locks and dams create a hazard for U.S. farmers who rely on the huge system to get their product to world markets. Nearly 60% of our soybean exports and nearly 70% of our corn exports leave for their foreign buyers through the Mississippi Gulf area, according to the Soy Transportation Coalition. Much travels there on the Mississippi watershed.

Keeping those barges moving efficiently keeps our prices competitive. For example, our biggest rival for soybean sales is Brazil. Getting one metric ton of soybeans from Brazil’s biggest soybean region, Mato Grosso, to our biggest mutual customer, Shanghai, cost $96.94 in 2015, according to the Coalition. Getting the same amount of soybeans from Iowa to Shanghai cost $61.66. That’s why our soybeans—and other crops—are attractive to foreign buyers. Closing that margin means losing customers.

I hope you enjoy Chip’s story. I also hope you had a safe and prosperous harvest, and that the next time you find yourself on a river, you’re holding a fishing pole.  

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