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Call for Infrastructure Improvement at Commodity Classic

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locks and dams improvements needed now

The nation’s soybean and corn leaders are at Commodity Classic discussing a range of issues including one that binds them together, U.S. inland waterways and infrastructure. Improvements need to be made in order to ensure movement of agricultural products.

“There’s no question that there has been a terrible lack of funding on the waterways, on the locks,” said Danny Murphy from Mississippi, president of American Soybean Association.

ASA chairman Steve Wellman from Nebraska says one of the problems is where funds are going collected under the Harbor Maintainance Fund, “that has been collecting funds annually to do infrastructure work on the locks and dams and only about half of that money that has been collected each year has been used for the intended purpose and the other half has gone into the general funds of the United States. So the first step would be to use the collected money for the purpose it was intended to start with.”

Illinois farmer Garry Niemeyer is chairman of the National Corn Growers Association and he says it’s time for the U.S. to invest in growth by improving infrastructure. Whether or not improvements are made will dictate exports in the future.

“If you look at the demand destruction on exports we’re losing our export markets to overseas such as Brazil and Argentina right now. We have to stop that. We have to grow our infrastructure. It’s one thing to pass free trade agreements and thank God we passed three of them this past year and we have two more in the hopper, TPP and Euro-Asia. If we can pass these free trade agreements but we can’t reliably deliver the grain that’s just going to create another problem.”

He added it’s time now for improvements.

“We built locks to last 50 years and they’re 80 years old. It’s time to build new locks.”

Just what sequester would do to locks and dams and other areas of agriculture nobody knows for sure, and Niemeyer thinks most in Washington don’t know. On a positive note for infrastructure he pointed to Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey’s new RIVER bill to keep projects on schedule and on budget.