America’s waterways, including some of the largest rivers in the country, are an underappreciated but highly important part of American agriculture. The nation’s lock-and-dam system was put together to provide a cost-effective means of transporting goods from rural areas to major cities and coastal ports. Lynn Muench is the Senior Vice President of Regional Advocacy at the American Waterways Operators, Arlington, Virginia.
Aging infrastructure in the nation’s waterways is causing American agricultural goods to be less price-competitive on the world market. Most of the nation’s lock-and-dam systems on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers were built during the Great Depression in the 1930s and expected to be replaced in 50 years.
Towboats and barges have gotten bigger in recent years, but the locks-and-dams are still the same size. That means it takes twice as long to get through the system as in the past.
Muench says officials aren’t keeping up with maintenance needs and the cost is only going to go higher the longer the problem goes unsolved.
Failure to address the problem will affect all of the agriculture very negatively.
She says our competitors in the export markets are investing money in their infrastructure. That means if the U.S. doesn’t keep up, our competitors may become more cost-effective in world markets, making their goods more affordable than American agricultural commodities.
From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service.