Soy Checkoff Highlights Importance of Maintaining Locks and Dams

The United Soybean Board says the five-day closure of Lock 27 on the Mississippi River this fall served as a reminder of just how much a lock closure can cost. The closure was needed for emergency repairs - and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates an unscheduled closure at the lock can cost up to 2.8-million dollars a day. In addition - USB says the inadequacies of the aging U.S. lock and dam system can add burden, time and costs due to inefficiencies. The nation's inland waterways serve as important and economical routes to transport U.S. soy around the globe. Of 2011 soybean exports - 59-percent passed through Mississippi River ports in southern Louisiana. Of those - 89-percent passed through the locks on U.S. inland waterways on the way to the ports. Soybean farmer and USB farmer-leader Dale Profit notes more than half of U.S. soybeans are shipped to foreign markets. To get those beans to the user as efficiently as possible and to remain competitive in the world market - he says we need a properly maintained waterway system.

USB's Global Opportunities program - in coordination with the Soy Transportation Coalition - recently funded a study to examine these inefficiencies and potential maintenance solutions for this vital part of U.S. infrastructure. One approach recommended - except in certain circumstances - is to place greater emphasis on maintenance of the current lock and dam system rather than new construction. The study suggests the ideal situation would be to provide regular routine maintenance and major rehabilitation. It's currently estimated that major rehabilitation will be needed at all 171 U.S. lock sites within the next 50 years.

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