Farm groups, three governors and nearly 80 members of Congress are asking the President to step in to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from lowering water flows on the Missouri River and keep navigation open on the Mississippi River. Mike Steenhoek with the Soy Transportation Coalition says the drought is threatening to cripple waterborne commerce, so they want a Presidential declaration to allow the Corps to override its water management plan for the Missouri and keep flows downstream at the congressionally mandated nine-foot depth.
“We certainly can justify that there will be significant economic harm imposed if navigation is not allowed to proceed on the Mississippi River. Whether or not that harm achieves a threshold of a presidential emergency declaration remains to be seen and that’s very subject to interpretation.”
A possible shutdown of the Mississippi along a 10 mile stretch from St. Louis to Cairo, Illinois could cripple the movement of grain for export.
“Any type of interruption to navigation during this time of the year for soybeans particularly given that 80 percent of our exports leave this country between September and February, an interruption during this time of the year is really analogous to a disruption to retailers prior to Christmas.”
According to American Farm Bureau transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley projections are that approximately 300 million bushels of grain and oilseeds worth about $2.3 billion would be delayed with the shut down.
“It has a huge impact to farmers and ranchers. Right now our global competitiveness is at stake. We export a lot of our ag products this time of year. We get in before South America has their harvest so, getting those products down the river is a huge issue and then we ship those barges back up full of fertilizer, seed and other inputs we’re going to need for the spring.”
The Corps is required to reduce flows from the Missouri River, where a majority of the Mississippi River gets its water flows this time of year. At this point the river will shut down in the middle of December. Walmsley says they’re hoping for a balanced approach with a moderated but steady release of water to keep the Mississippi River flowing at a depth needed for commerce.[audio:https://www.hoosieragtoday.com//wp-content/uploads//2012/12/concern-about-river-commerce-for-ag.mp3|titles=concern about river commerce for ag]
Sources: NAFB News Service and AFBF