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barge on Mississippi River SergioZacchi/Getty Images
TRANSPORTATION IMPACT: Agriculture is the third-largest economy on the Mississippi River, generating $33 billion in annual revenue, according to the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.

Mississippi River cities brace for soybean tariff impact

Five of the top 10 U.S. soybean-producing states are along the river and rely on it for transportation.

Cities along the Mississippi River are bracing for economic impact following China’s 25% tax on U.S. soybeans announced July 6. The move was in response to U.S. tariffs levied on Chinese goods by President Donald Trump.

U.S. agricultural exports to China are critical to the Mississippi River economy, with exports of agricultural products to China totaling $19.6 billion in 2017, according to the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative.

Half of the top 10 soy-producing states in the U.S. are along the Mississippi River, with Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas ranking as Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, and 10, respectively, according to the association.

Besides affecting soybeans and other facets of agriculture, the tariff also will impact the nation’s freight industry, as 30% of all U.S. soybeans are exported to China.

Lionel Johnson, mayor of St. Gabriel, La., and co-chairman of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, said in a news release that his city lies just south of Baton Rouge where the port of southern Louisiana begins.

“Louisiana is set to be the hardest-hit state from proposed tariffs overall, with the vast majority of that impact coming from soybeans — not because we are a top soy-producing state, but because we are the gateway port for that product to the rest of the world, and China is the largest destination,” Johnson said. Twenty percent of all U.S. imports and exports pass through Louisiana ports.

Agriculture is the third-largest economy on the Mississippi River, generating $33 billion in annual revenue and directly supporting 192,000 jobs in the Mississippi River Valley alone.

Shipping, manufacturing key to regional economy
Mississippi River cities are sustained in part by several sectors of the economy that feed into commodity production, including shipping and manufacturing.

Frank Klipsch, mayor of Davenport, Iowa, and also an initiative co-chairman, noted that $30.7 million worth of soybeans exported from Iowa to China are threatened by the tariffs.

China is the top U.S. soybean purchaser and bought $14 billion of beans last year,

That concerns John Heisdorffer, a soybean grower from Keota, Iowa, and president of the American Soybean Association. Nearly one in three rows of harvested soybeans is exported to China.

“We have spent more than 40 years building this market with China, and it is not a market that U.S. soybean farmers can afford to lose,” Heisdorffer said.

Mayors involved with the association plan to work together to achieve more sustainable trade outcomes for Mississippi River corridor industries.

Rita Albrecht, mayor of Bemidji, Minn., the northernmost city on the Mississippi, noted that Minnesota is third in the nation for soybean production, and that farmers in the state have worked hard to keep commodity production vibrant.

“Policies at the national level need to consider state and local government efforts to maintain local agricultural economies,” Albrecht said. “They are the engine for U.S. preeminence in the global commodity supply chain. Upsetting agriculture’s advantage could shatter policies we’ve been working on for years.”

The Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, organized in 2012, comprises 85 mayors. The association represents cities on the main stem of the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to Louisiana, and promotes economic and environmental security along the river corridor. More information is available at

Source: Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative

TAGS: Soybean
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