Soybean shippers support Water Resources Development Act bill
U.S. soybean shippers are pressing Congress to pass legislation that would authorize construction of new navigation locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
The 26,000 members of the American Soybean Association voiced strong support for the Water Resources Development Act legislation introduced by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. Another 15 senators co-sponsored the bill.
“One of the few remaining advantages of U.S. soybean farmers have over our international competitors is an efficient transportation system, particularly an efficient inland waterway system,” said Neal Bredehoeft, president of the American Soybean Association, in a statement Wednesday.
According to the association, more than 75 percent of U.S. soybean exports move to world ports via the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems. The lock and dam system on these rivers was built nearly 60 years ago to handle 600-foot barges. Today, most barge tows are 1,200 feet long, requiring the tow to be split and sent through one section at a time. This results in delays that increase transportation costs, resulting in lower commodity prices and fewer international sales for farmers, the association said.
“While U.S. farmers are fighting to maintain market share in a fiercely competitive global marketplace, our international competitors are investing in transportation infrastructure,” Bredehoeft said. “Argentina has invested over $650 million in their transportation systems to make their exports more competitive. Brazil is reconstructing its water transport network to reduce the cost of shipping soybeans by at least 75 percent.
“Due in large part to these efforts, the two countries have captured 50 percent of the total growth in world soybean sales during the past three years,” he said.
The proposed Water Resources Development Act legislation allocates funds for construction of new 1,200-foot locks at Locks 20, 21, 22, 24 and 25 on the Upper Mississippi River and at LaGrange and Peoria Locks on the Illinois River.