RELATED CURRENT EVENT: A new Water Resources and Reform Development Act is in conference committee right now where the House and Senate are trying to iron out their differences in the two bills passed in their chambers. The final bill will hopefully change the funding mechanism for Olmsted Lock and Dam repairs, which are significantly over time and budget, freeing up money to begin construction on a new locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. For more information on Illinois’ desperate need for new locks and dams, click here!
We’re having Trivia Week this week on Corn Corps … hope you’ll join us by putting your guess in the comments! We’ll draw a winner each day for an IL Corn prize pack! Have fun …
a. just after Lewis and Clark’s expedition South
b. during the Civil War
c. just before the Cuban Missile Crisis
d. during the native American “Trail of Tears” trek
This is a super fun video that explains some of the reasons we need to update and upgrade our locks and dams. Did you know that the locks and dams we’re using today were built during Mark Twain’s time for paddle boats?
Today we are celebrating the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) that just passed in the House last night. It attempts to fix some of the problems but STILL doesn’t help us get the funds to build new locks and dams. In fact, this WRRDA doesn’t even include an increase in the user fee that industry all agrees to in order to get more money in the pot. This isn’t even federal money!!!
The Illinois Corn Growers Association returned from Washington, DC late last night with a bucketful of stories, opinions, and tactics to make a difference in federal policy during the 113th session of Congress.
Overall, there was a lot of negativity on the hill. We heard from agency’s, associations, lobbyists, and others who all believe that to see any meaningful action on the hill would be a miracle. Conversely, a few Congressmen talked positively that work would get done and bills would be debated and passed because “something has to happen.”
Of course, we hope so.
We hope to see a five-year farm bill passed in 2013. Simply extending last year’s bill after it expired in Sept 2012 to cover this year doesn’t give farmers any sort of certainty about the business climate they must operate in for the coming years. Putting this off isn’t a good decision for anyone.
We hope to see a Water Resources Development Act passed in 2013 too. This week, we advocated for a WRDA bill that incorporated authorization of funds to upgrade locks and dams on the Mississippi River. Congress was marking up a WRDA bill also this week so we are encouraged by some action and hope that we can all work together to see a new lock upgrade start in 2014.
Finally, we want to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard. We believe in the original intention of the RFS – to help our country become energy independent while improving the environment – and we want to see the standard maintained. Hopefully, with nothing happening on the Hill this year, threats to the RFS won’t have legislative legs to stand on.
All in all, it was a busy four days on Capitol Hill. Days filled with around 150 visits to Congressmen, agencies, associations, and corporations. Days filled with learning about trade, biotech, sustainability initiatives, crop insurance, farm bill, ethanol, livestock and more. Long days with sore backs and aching legs from carrying folders and papers and walking miles over hallowed ground.
All worth it, of course, for the good of the industry.
Celebrate Ag Week this week by sharing our blog on your facebook page or over twitter. Encourage people to gain information about farmers and their food supply. Call your Congressman about any of the above issues. Eat … and know that your food supply is safe and secure.
The aging infrastructure on American rivers is a BIG priority for IL Corn and has been for many years. Tons of Americans turn on the lights or fill up their gas tank without ever thinking about how those inputs arrived in Illinois and the dilapidated locks and dams that got them there.
It’s a new year and IL Corn has New Year’s Resolutions too! In 2013, we hope to:
- Pass a workable Farm Bill
- Defend the Renewable Fuel Standard
- Secure funding to upgrade locks and dams on the Mississippi River
- Reintroduce ourselves to the non-farming public
3. SECURE FUNDING TO UPGRADE LOCKS AND DAMS ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
I really feel like I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but here goes …
Illinois farmers, as well as Illinois business and Illinois citizens, need upgraded locks and dams. They are an important part of the economic driver that agriculture is to the state (more than 50% of our corn is exported) and they are the means by which we receive coal, road salt, and other important inputs.
To put it mildly, if a lock or dam was to fail and commerce on the Mississippi was to stop, every single one of us would feel it.
Commerce on the Mississippi has been significantly slowed this winter as the effects of the 2012 drought linger on. If Mississippi River commerce had closed in the two month period of December to January:
- Over 410 tows would be impacted, and more than 10,600 barges would be stopped
- 4,100 towboat jobs would be impacted
- 5 million barrels of domestic crude oil would be replaced by imported crude, costing $545M in additional imports
- About 300 million bushels of farm products delayed in reaching market
- Coal worth $192M would be shut in
- Total cargo valued at $7 billion would stop moving if the river were closed between St. Louis and Cairo, IL, due to low water
And that’s just a two month closure! What we’re actually looking at is a catastrophic failure that will take months to fix unless we proactively update the locks and dams.
The locks we’re using were built for paddle boats in Mark Twain’s era. We need to upgrade them so we can compete with other nations. Not to mention, that we will become second to Panama (SECOND TO PANAMA) when their expanded locks and dams open and ours are still old, crumbling, and inefficient.
Read these articles for more information and definitely tune in tomorrow!
The drought of 2012 might seem to be over, but take a closer look. The sub-soil moisture is still drastically low in many areas. Also, the Mississippi River is illustrating what a lack of rain can do. The River is so low in the Mid-Mississippi area that barge traffic may be halted due to low water levels.
That won’t be the case if Illinois Corn Growers Association has anything to say about it. IL Corn is working with an industry group called Waterways Council, Inc., to find ways to keep the river moving. You see, more than 50% of Illinois’ corn crop leaves the state, with a good portion finding its ride down the river on barges. Also, fertilizer moves into the state via northbound river traffic, so in this case, a low-water issue can get us coming and going.
Earlier this week IL Corn representatives met with IL Senator Dick Durbin and other stakeholders to discuss the best ways to keep the Mississippi River open to commerce and other traffic. Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon attended the meeting, as well, and was kind enough to go on the record with us about her thoughts on the issue. Watch below for her statement.
For many, the drought of 2012 is already a distant memory. If you don’t make a living trying to grow crops or in an industry that pulls water from diminishing rivers and lakes, you probably haven’t given it a second thought. But low water resulting from our historic drought IS a cause of concern.
Right now, on the Mississippi River, barge traffic is being heavily affected by low water. In fact, the water levels on the Mississippi near Thebes and Grand Ridge are so low that hazardous rock formations jutting up from the river bed eliminate the necessary water depth for commerce to continue.
The rock formations are part of the problem, but so is the capture of water upstream on the Missouri River. It is in the annual plan to hold water back at this time of year allowing for cities and industries upstream to have the water necessary to operate, but without water releases, the Mississippi River commerce will end. We don’t have the truck and rail capacity necessary to offset what we stand to lose with a Mississippi River closure.
This is a complicated problem. Illinois Corn along with other ag industry groups, barge companies, and others have asked for immediate water releases and removal of the rock formations. If we can’t act quickly enough on these requests, commerce on the Mississippi River WILL stop and the citizens of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and others will be affected.
ICGA/ICMB Field Services Director
Did you see this video of a lock wall in Lockport, IL collapsing due only to its own deterioration?
When concrete walls spontaneously fall, when our economy is built on those same concrete walls helping us transport goods to market, when the potential for a time without said concrete walls is termed a “catastrophic failure” … we think it’s time to invest in infrastructure.
Illinois Corn brought leadership of the US Grains Council out to Lock 15 on the Mississippi River to see the deteriorated state of our river infrastructure. Our take home message was that it is counterproductive to work on eliminating trade barriers and trying to increase exports as a whole if we can’t move U.S. products out of the country.
Want to learn more about river transporation in the Mississippi River Basin, read these great articles!