Work Continues on Funding Mississippi River Improvements

Approved lock and dam upgrades are still not funded.

Published on: Aug 2, 2011

The Water Resources Development Act provides a blueprint for further investment in the Unites States' lock and dam inventory.  Congress approved the act four years ago, yet so far, WRDA has been left unfunded by Congress.

According to Mike Steenhook, Executive Director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition, the Mississippi River is important to increasing our exports.  He says it's time to make an investment.

"It is the most fuel efficient mode of transportation; so much of what farmers produce are loaded onto barges and transported down to places like New Orleans and then exported to places like China," Steenhook said. "We have this goal of doubling exports over the next few years and agriculture is one of those industries that's really going to be tasked with leading the way. Farmers are up to the challenge, but I'm not sure our government is up to that challenge. If they really want to show a commitment to exports they need to show a concurrent commitment to our infrastructure."

Steenhook realizes there are financial challenges. He says there is a lot of friction right now between two competing desires: cutting the deficit and debt and increasing exports to fuel economic recovery.

"We want to have a strengthened economy to pull ourselves out of this economic malaise that we find ourselves in," Steenhook said. "To accomplish that is going to require investment and when you invest in infrastructure you do that via two ways; either you have some kind of tax or you increase debt."

The American Soybean Association is urging Congress to support its top transportation and infrastructure priorities. ASA President Alan Kemper says to maintain the industry's competitive position in the global market t investment in aging and increasingly inefficient transportation infrastructure is needed. He says the ability to move soybeans from the farm to processing facilities and export customers is a significant factor in the bottom line.