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ASA: more funds for inland waterways maintenance

Following early-season flooding, calls for U.S. waterway maintenance increase. Additional federal funds to maintain shipping channels requested.  

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has joined with the National Grain and Feed Association, other producer groups, processors, and input suppliers, alerting the Congressional Appropriations Committees about the urgent need for additional resources to dredge and repair inland waterways that have been damaged by historic high water levels.

"Agricultural producers, processors and exporters rely on the entire Mississippi River system and share concern about the impact recent floods in the Midwest will have on the river system," said Steve Wellman, ASA First Vice President and a soybean producer from Syracuse, Neb. "More than 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports moved to world markets through the Port of South Louisiana via the Mississippi River and its tributaries."

A modern and efficient inland waterways transportation system is vital to maintaining U.S. agricultural competitiveness in the world market. As the U.S. system continues to face delays and closures attributable to low drafts and crumbling locks and dams, competitors are increasing expenditures on their own transport infrastructures, thereby eroding the competitive advantage long enjoyed by the United States.

"With the current record flooding extending from South Dakota through Iowa and Nebraska, the Corps is also going to need funds for repairs due to flooding on the Missouri River," Wellman said. "Commerce has already been slowed by the high currents that are accumulating silt on the river bottoms, and river pilots continue to impose draft restrictions, one-way traffic, and daytime only hours as a result of the high current situation.”

The river and its tributaries comprise more than 14,000 miles of navigable waterways -- making it a natural distribution system that covers a wide stretch of the continental United States. About 413 million tons of domestic and international cargo is moved annually on the Lower Mississippi River. In 2009, Louisiana ports exported about $13.4 billion worth of agricultural products, including grain harvested in the Midwest and shipped via barge for export to world markets.

"ASA is asking Congress to help keep this vital artery functioning by ensuring the Corps of Engineers has the resources it needs to maintain and modernize navigation on the Mississippi River and tributary system," Wellman said. "ASA will also take this message to the (Obama) administration asking that it submit the necessary emergency funding request to Congress."

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