The Mississippi River is the lifeline for two-thirds of the nation's grain and oilseed products, with the total value of cargo exporting exceeding $104 billion annually. However, lack of infrastructure maintenance and investment could make the U.S. unable to meet its trade objectives of doubling exports by 2014 and put the U.S. at a disadvantage in the world marketplace.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) are co-leading a letter to President Obama addressing dredging concerns. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has limited dredging, which resulted in restrictions for deep draft vessels at the mouth of the Mississippi River. These disruptions are costly and restrict the flow of agricultural products. While dredging has been conducted to return the Mississippi River to full depths, there is concern that this will be a recurring problem if adequate resources are not available.
"Without a dependable Mississippi River Channel for deep draft navigation, a wide range of products and goods will be placed at an immediate competitive disadvantage for participation in the Nation's export markets, and ports and marine transportation companies will lose business," the letter notes.
Pat Gallwey, chief operation officer of the Port of New Orleans, is concerned about maintenance of the Mississippi River’s shipping capacity. To accommodate shipping, the River must be maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a width of 750 feet and a depth of 45 feet. Gallwey said the Corps is facing a potential $22 million cut in its $85 million dredging budget. He explained that bar pilots and maritime professionals who help guide ships through navigationally-challenging waters, are recommending that barges on the Mississippi be loaded to only a 44-foot draft due to insufficient dredging.
“With a national goal of doubling U.S. exports, we can’t start by reducing the draft in the Mississippi River. That sends a horrible message to the world about shipping from New Orleans and the United States,” Gallwey said. “We need the agriculture industry’s help to get the federal funding to keep the Mississippi dredged to 45 feet. The BP oil spill in the Gulf is minor compared to the economic impact of reducing the River’s draft to 44 feet.”
The other letter is to the Army Corps of Engineers and urges continued support for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, which encompasses infrastructure on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) are collecting signatures on a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, highlighting the importance of starting new lock construction and ecosystem restoration on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. This letter is consistent with the Capital Development Plan to improve and accelerate infrastructure projects on the Mississippi River system.
Policy is one of the most important issues facing farmers today, but often the most difficult to digest. Jacqui Fatka has a passion to decode the often difficult world of agricultural policy into terms understandable for today's ag players.
Fatka joined the Farm Progress team as E-Content Editor in August 2003 after graduating from Iowa State University. Prior to full-time employment with Farm Progress, she interned at Wallaces Farmer magazine, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's press office and the Iowa Pork Producers Association and freelanced for National Hog Farmer. She also worked as a public relations consultant with Iowa Industries for the Future, an effort to bring together major players in the biorenewables industry.
Currently Fatka is a staff editor at a sister publication, Feedstuffs. For Farm Futures she regularly tells the story of ongoing agricultural policy changes. Her byline can also be found on management profiles.
Fatka grew up on a grain and livestock farm near Atlantic, Iowa. She currently lives in central Ohio with her husband Eric, and their three children - Josiah, Spencer and Avonell.
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