With a wide variety of pressing issues facing the federal government over the coming months, The National Corn Growers Association says funding for lock and dam improvements remain a high priority. NCGA President Garry Niemeyer says the inland waterway system plays a crucial role in the nation's economy, and we must act now to help our leaders understand that funding improvements is critical to maintaining our industry's viability.
"With the country's inland navigation system moving more than a billion bushels of grain per year, about 60% of all grain exports, farmers understand the importance of a functional waterways system," Niemeyer said. "The country's inland navigation system plays an even more visible role in the economy also, moving more than a billion tons of domestic commerce valued at more than $300 billion per year. Yet, investment in the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Waterways has not kept pace with the needs of the transportation sector. Designed to last only 50 years, much of the lock system is approaching 80 years old and signs of deterioration are readily apparent. "
Despite authorizing a bill that would create $8 billion in projects that would replace or rehabilitate aging river infrastructure, Congress did not fully fund these projects at that time. Instead, according to NCGA, the projects are funded in a piecemeal fashion, slapping Band-Aids on the gushing wound. This approach has led to significant cost overruns and construction delays counted in decades, not months or years.
This problem is gaining attention outside of the agricultural community. Last week Representative Tim Bishop, D-N.Y, ranking member on the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, submitted a letter to the committee's Chairman Representative Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, requesting proposing the bipartisan organization of a stakeholder roundtable to discuss the deteriorating inland waterways system. For a full copy of this letter, click HERE.