Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) representatives joined President Donald Trump in Cincinnati today to bring attention to the critical need for investment in transportation infrastructure. The president announced plans for modernizing the nation’s aging system of levees, dams and locks during a rally at Rivertowne Marina on the Ohio River.
“We know about 60 percent of soybeans grown in Illinois are marketed and sold through export channels each year,” says Daryl Cates, ISG president, who farms near Columbia, Ill. “Investments to maintain and improve our nation’s waterways, roads, bridges and railroads are crucial not only for Illinois farmers, but for many other U.S. businesses.”
U.S. Census Bureau export data estimate the value of 2016 whole soybean exports from Illinois at nearly $2.4 billion. If you add the value of exports of soybean meal, soybean oil, seed and other soybean products, that estimate rises to nearly $2.6 billion. When you also account for Illinois soybeans commingled with soybeans from other states at consolidation points along or across state lines before being exported, ISG estimates Illinois soybean exports to be valued at $3 billion annually.
A large proportion of Illinois soybean exports, along with other U.S. products destined for foreign markets, traverse the Illinois Waterway, which flows from Chicago, then through central Illinois before its mouth at the Mississippi River by St. Louis. The 9-foot channel lock and dam system was built in the 1930s with an estimated life span of 50 years. Illinois soybean farmers also rely on local roads, bridges and rail service to get their soybeans to market.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, the maintenance needs of this aging river infrastructure, combined with limited operations and maintenance funding, has resulted in a primarily fix-as-fail strategy. Repairs sometimes require days, weeks or months.
“When a lock fails, all the barges stop. This halts our producers’ ability to get their soybeans to their customers,” says ISG Chief Executive Officer Craig Ratajczyk, who attended the event with ISG Director of Issues Management and Analysis Mike Levin and Transportation Lead Scott Sigman. “Thousands of dollars of increased transportation costs also add up as the barges line up and wait their turn. That impacts customers, shippers, manufacturers, commodity investors, farmers and consumers.”
Representatives of the Illinois Soybean Growers also participated in discussions with several transportation network influencers at the Cincinnati “Infrastructure Week” event.
“We want to hear the president’s ideas,” says Cates. “Illinois Soybean Growers is committed to working together with industry, government, academia and other transportation stakeholders to develop innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges.”
Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is a membership organization serving more than 43,000 Illinois soybean growers. ISG provides advocacy in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to promote the interests of Illinois soybean farmers and programs that enhance soybean production and demand. Voice for Soy, the online action center supported by ISG, allows growers to easily connect with legislators and regulators to advocate for Illinois agriculture. For more information about ISG, visit the website www.ilsoygrowers.com.
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