Inland waterways are a key method of transportation for corn and soybeans. Although grain accounts for only 5% of the Ohio River's traffic, 25% of the corn and soybeans that leave the state are shipped through the inland waterways system.
"The inland waterways of the U.S. are the most economical transportation mode for grain and the best way to see how they operate is to experience them firsthand," said Joe Steinkamp, vice president of Indiana Soybean Alliance and a farmer from Evansville. "Without our river system, we lose our competitive advantage. We want the ag community to be educated on transportation issues so they can educate their politicians."
Almost 200 farmer, industry representatives and political leaders toured the Newburgh Lock and Dam via a deck barge on September 5 to learn about the state of the national waterway infrastructure. Observing and understanding the importance of waterways was the goal.
The success of the U.S. corn and soy industries is tied to the quality of the nation's waterway infrastructure and quality of the locks and dams. In 2011, 59% of soybean exports passed through Mississippi ports. Of those soybeans, 89% arrived at those ports via U.S. inland waterways.
If a single Ohio River lock failed or closed, it would cost Indiana farmers approximately two cents per bushel, or more than $20 million. While farms situated closer to the river would lose between 11 to 14 cents per bushel, every Indiana grain farmer would see the effect.
"This event allows farmers to see what happens on the Ohio River and understand the efficiency of our waterways," said Herb Ringel, president of Indiana Corn Growers Association. "Tour participants go through the locks and see how the locks raise and lower to haul cargo. A lot of our locks and dams need updating, and this tour demonstrates their importance and why they need our attention."
The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.