(Posted Wed. Sep 21st, 2011)
Sept. 21: Steve Ebke, chair of the National Corn Growers Association’s Production and Stewardship Action Team and a farmer from Nebraska, testified today before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. The hearing focused on the economic importance and financing challenges of the nation’s inland waterways system.
“The U.S. agricultural sector is the largest user of the freight transportation network, accounting for nearly one-third of all freight transportation services utilized across the country,” Ebke stated during his testimony. “With the primary agricultural production in the interior of the country, far from the ports that link to international trade, transportation is critical to the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture in world markets.”
Ebke also noted that each year more than one billion bushels of grain, about 60 percent of all grain exports, are shipped for export via the Mississippi River, but many locks are too small for today’s larger tows. As an example, many lock chambers on the Upper Mississippi are 600 feet in length. However, the average length of a modern tow (15 barges pushed by a towboat) is 1,200 feet. Therefore, a modern tow would essentially have to be split in half and transit the lock one section at a time, resulting in costly delays.
“NCGA believes that improving transportation capacity should be a national priority that deserves urgent attention,” Ebke stated. “We can no longer stand idle, taking our transportation infrastructure for granted. For too long, we have lived off the investment of our ancestors. It is time to provide necessary and long-overdue improvements to our nation’s waterways.”
To read his entire testimony, click here.