Ag urges Corps to delay waterway project

Long grain transportation delays reported after Mississippi River project begins.

During one of the busiest seasons for U.S. agriculture, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division recently closed the Mississippi River to daylight traffic for a three-mile stretch near Memphis, Tenn. for construction. The Nov. 7 closure was expected to last 14 days for planned mat-laying work along the Mississippi River, but agriculture groups urged the Corps to reconsider the timing of the project.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) recently sent a letter explaining the importance of reopening the waterway for a crucial time in U.S. agriculture.

“This comes at a terrible time for U.S. corn farmers,” said NCGA president Chip Bowling. “We produced a record crop in 2014, much of which will be transported along the Mississippi River. It is imperative that barge traffic not be impeded, and as much grain as possible is transported before winter.”

According to the Corps, the resulting delays of barge traffic were running about 10 hours through the first weekend. 

In the letter, NCGA noted that the closure was being done with little notice, and that it would result in significant delays of grain shipments.

“We fear the closure will result in significant delays of grain shipments with potential to create backups as long as 75 miles,” Bowling stressed. “A delay of this magnitude will have a significant financial impact on farmers, who already face prices below the cost of production.”

In response to concerns from NCGA and others, the Corps agreed on the evening of Nov. 9 to delay the work each morning to accommodate tows that did not clear the work area overnight. The Corps was also considering whether to allow north-bound traffic during daylight hours and south-bound traffic at night.

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