New research by the University of Tennessee quantifies what many in agriculture have known for years; failure of our aging river locks and dams along the Mississippi River and its tributaries would be ruinous with billions of dollars in lost jobs and reduced economic activity.
Recently, USDA released estimates of the economic implications to the agriculture sector should a disruption occur at either Lock & Dam 25 on the Upper Mississippi or La Grange Lock & Dam on the Illinois River waterway. The locations were selected because they are representative of the lock system as a whole but also because they occupy key locations on the river system.
“These are both 600 foot locks even though modern tows are 1,200 feet-long. They are also at the lower reaches of the waterways,” said Ken Hartman, chair of the National Corn Growers Association’s Market Access Action Team. “The southbound traffic here already contributes to long delays because of the lock size. But a disruption of any length of time related to their deteriorating condition would be catastrophic for family farmers who are increasingly dependent on exports and trade.”
Among several important findings, the report concludes a L&D 25 closure could result in a loss of more than 7,000 jobs, $1.3 billion of labor income and about $2.4 billion of economic activity (total industry output) annually. Similarly, closing La Grange Lock & Dam could result in a reduction of 5,500 jobs, $900 million of labor income and $1.8 billion of economic activity annually.
“A majority of these locks were built in the 1930s and have surpassed their designed lifespan,” Hartman notes. “With growing demand being made on the system upgrading the navigational efficiency of these waterways is a priority for corn farmers and NCGA, especially when most of our prospective customers are now overseas.”
A total of 36 locks and dams, 28 on the Upper Mississippi River, are maintained at a 9-foot depth navigation channel for barge transportation.
NCGA is taking a series of actions to do our part to help contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the economic fallout it is creating for corn farmers and our customers. Short term, this means instituting policies to protect the health and safety of our stakeholders and the broader communities we serve. Long term, we’re focused on creating solutions to help corn farmers and our customers recover from the financial impacts of this crisis.
CommonGround is a group of farmers connecting with consumers through conversations about science and research and personal stories about food and misinformation surrounding farming. Supported by the NCGA and state corn organizations.
The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by NCGA the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.