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NGFA applauds Army Corps for Mississippi River infrastructure plan

DarcyMaulsby /iStock/Thinkstock. grain barge river elevator
This barge on the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa is taking on a load of grain, either corn or soybeans, from area farms.
Modernizing outdated locks will help discipline rail rates, reduce wear and tear on U.S. roads and bridges, and make American agriculture more competitive.

The National Grain and Feed Association commended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for prioritizing crucial inland waterways infrastructure projects in its spending plan released Wednesday that includes nearly $23 billion in supplemental funding.

In the plan, the Army Corps announced it would spend $732 million to finish design and construction of Lock and Dam 25, located on the Upper Mississippi River in Winfield, Missouri. This is the first time this project has received construction funding since it was authorized in 2007. NGFA supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in which Congress provided $2.5 billion for inland waterways construction projects giving the Army Corps 60 days to produce a detailed spending plan. 

"NGFA thanks the Biden administration, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, for leading a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers in the House and Senate that highlighted the critical need to fund the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) starting with Lock and Dam 25," said NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert. "We appreciate their leadership on this long-standing priority for NGFA and we are grateful for this result." 

The Corps' spending plan, which includes about $4 billion for commercial navigation improvements at ports and on inland waterways, details how the Corps will allocate money under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

"The existing locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway were built in the 1930’s with 600-foot chambers to accommodate the standard vessels used for commerce during that time," Seyfert said. "However, today's towboats can push a 1,200-foot-long tow of 15 barges which must 'double-lock' through, resulting in significant, costly delays. Modernizing these outdated locks will help discipline rail rates, reduce wear and tear on U.S. roads and bridges, and make American agriculture more competitive.”

NGFA led 24 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group in urging the Army Corps to prioritize and fund NESP, including sending its most recent letter on Dec. 16, 2021.

NGFA has worked with its member companies, agricultural partners and lawmakers to highlight the importance of healthy waterways infrastructure to the U.S. economy. U.S. agricultural exports traditionally contribute a nearly $15-20 billion surplus to the U.S. balance of trade, as well as provide more than 20% of U.S. farm income. In 2020, the U.S. exported 29% of its grains and oilseeds, with more than half of those exports transported on the Mississippi River system. 

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