Lock and Dam renovation funding key to global competitiveness of U.S. Soy

To ensure continued and reliable delivery of U.S. soy exports to customers around the world, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council has invested checkoff resources into funding pre-engineering and design work to enhance and maintain Lock and Dam #25 on the Upper Mississippi River — a U.S. infrastructure asset critical for efficient barge traffic.

“The river system in the United States is our lifeline and one of U.S. Soy’s biggest advantages over our competitors,” said Meagan Kaiser, USB farmer-leader and soybean farmer from Missouri. “It’s vital that our supply chain remain strong and reliable so we can continue to market our products and provide the most sustainable, reliable nutrient source for our customers. Soybean farmers understand this, which is why the checkoff is working to modernize U.S. infrastructure and return value back to the farm.”

MSR&PC, United Soybean Board (USB), the Soy Transportation Coalition, Illinois Soybean Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and Iowa Corn Promotion Board have committed $1 million to offset pre-engineering and design work expenses required to move the project forward. A new video from USB explains the cooperative effort.

If approved for federal funding, the project would be the first under the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). NESP is a long-term program, authorized by Congress, to improve and restore the Upper Mississippi River System. Primary opportunities of improvement include reducing commercial traffic delays while restoring, protecting and enhancing the environment.

Lock and Dam #25 is one of seven existing locks specified by NESP for improvements. These existing locks, constructed in the 1930s, experience significant delays due to the single 600-foot lock chambers that raise and lower vessels moving from one water level to another. The 600-foot chambers require 1,200-foot barges to be disconnected and double-locked, significantly slowing delivery of U.S. grain commodities.

According to a report prepared for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, Lock & Dam #25 accommodates 200 million bushels of soybeans annually. The Waterways Council, Inc. states an outage at this facility would cost nearly $1.6 billion and increase the number of truck traffic trips by more than 500,000 annually. Additionally, a 2016 economic impact analysis by the USDA demonstrated this lock and dam’s importance — predicting that even just a three-month shut down (Sept.-Nov.) would result in aggregate economic activity related to grain barge transportation declining by $933 million.

“Agricultural products comprise 70% of what we move through this part of the Mississippi River, so it’s significant to U.S. farmers and international customers that rely on this infrastructure to have our transportation corridor functioning,” said Andy Schimpf, navigation business line manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Barge transport via the lock and dam system provides the most economical, efficient and sustainable method of shipping U.S. soybeans and other goods.”

Lock and Dam #25 isn’t the first critical infrastructure project taken on by the soy checkoff. In 2019, the checkoff invested in research, analysis and design to initiate dredging of the lower Mississippi River. That initial funding helped open the door to a $245 million investment from the federal government and the state of Louisiana to dredge the area from 45 to 50 feet. Once complete, the project is estimated to create an additional $461 million value opportunity for U.S. soybean farmers.

“Investments should never be regarded as a one-time activity,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director, Soy Transportation Coalition. “They must be perpetual. Infrastructure investments that soybean farmers have made in the past have positioned us for future success. We want to continue that level of investment, so U.S. soybean farmers and their consumers continue to benefit.”

Council Chair Joe Serbus represents MSR&PC on the STC, replacing Joel Schreurs. To learn about key investments made on behalf of U.S. soybean farmers, sign up for the Soy Hopper newsletter at unitedsoybean.org/newsletter.

About United Soybean Board: United Soybean Board’s 78 volunteer farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff. For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit unitedsoybean.org.

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