(Posted Tue. Oct 11th, 2016)
Solid infrastructure is the backbone of American agriculture and especially critical to the continued growth in exports of feed grains.
That’s why the National Corn Growers Association, along with the U.S. Grains Council, signed on as a sponsor of a special seven-part Agri-Pulse editorial series that is taking a close-up look at America’s infrastructure and the improvements that are needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive at home and abroad.
The series, “Keeping Rural America Competitive,” was launched following the recent Rural Infrastructure Summit in Ames, Iowa, in an effort to continue the important conversations prompted by the Summit.
That event featured a diverse collection of agriculture companies and organizations as well as distinguished speakers emphasizing the importance of finding new ways to address global population growth, exports and market access while building stronger rural communities.
It also included two moderated panels featuring a cross-section of industry representatives—the first on rural infrastructure and the agricultural economy and the second on disruptive innovation and its potential role in future development.
The Agri-Pulse article series is looking at the breadth and depth of issues facing U.S. farm infrastructure, including an article by reporter Ed Maixner that takes a deep dive into the role infrastructure plays in exports and the challenges involved in keeping U.S. goods moving.
The article noted that economists estimate U.S. producers send more than 30 percent of their corn crop abroad as grain, feed products, ethanol, syrup and oil, making it critical for U.S. inland infrastructure and ports to be ready for continued volume.
Assessing the strength of U.S. infrastructure that is so key to exports is a mixed bag, the article said. A few key takeaways:
The American Society of Civil Engineers in its nationwide, every-four-years assessment, gave Ds (on an A-to-F scale) in its 2013 national scoring of both overall infrastructure and roads. Both were up slightly from 2009's D- scores.
On the other hand, the government and private industry dollars are being invested. ASCE reports that from 2000 to 2013 assets of total U.S. transport equipment grew by 43 percent, to $1.2 trillion, while transportation structures (highways, streets, railroads, bridges, etc.) grew 63 percent, to $739 billion.
ASCE estimates that federal and state transportation funding levels have risen enough for most states to maintain roads, but are at least $11 billion a year short of what's needed for long-term solutions and responding to growing demands on the system. It also estimates that federal surface transportation funding remains 23 percent less than 2002 levels, when adjusted for inflation, and state and local transportation funding is down 30 percent overall.
In the water-borne sector, a survey by the American Association of Port Authorities found that coastal ports and private port operations planned to invest $150 billion from 2016 to 2020 in capital improvements, more than triple what the same respondents had planned for 2012-2016, though the spending is concentrated on Gulf of Mexico ports.
In addition, Congress has been annually increasing the civil works budget of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which deepens, widens and otherwise maintains and improves harbor access for ships.
The series also includes a broad examination of infrastructure financing, as well as articles on the importance of connectivity and the challenge of keeping infrastructure from falling behind.
For access to the online series, click here.