This week, Illinois Corn led the leadership of the US Grains Council (USGC) on a lock and dam tour, giving them a firsthand look at our deteriorating waterway.
USGC is a private, non-profit corporation that develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, grain sorghum and related products. USGC believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability.
Illinois Corn Marketing Board is a considerable funder of the USGC, as exports are a very important market opportunity for Illinois corn. But our message to the USGC leadership yesterday was very simple. It is counterproductive to work on eliminating trade barriers and trying to increase exports as a whole if we can’t move U.S. products out of the country.
Locks and dams in the Mississippi River Basin were built when paddle boats were common place on the river. They are nearly 80 years old. And if you’re not sure that 80 years is a long time, think about the life your great-great grandma lived as opposed to the life you’re living.
Our barges are larger. They are more advanced. They carry more product because our marketplace is a global one instead of a domestic one. And they seek to remain competitive with other countries having much more sophisticated infrastructure like the newly expanded Panama Canal.
The USGC leadership was stunned. Why are we not investing in upgrading the infrastructure, they asked? How could we let it deteriorate?
The benefit to this week’s tour is that Illinois Corn now has yet another partner on the pursuit of funding for new locks and dams. The USGC Board is made up of many farmers from outside the Mississippi River Basin that have never seen the state of our river infrastructure before. Illinois Corn continues to spread the message that the infrastructure needs attention.
Someday, maybe someone will listen.