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(Posted Mon. Feb 12th, 2018)

Keywords: Transportation

The National Corn Growers Association thanked President Trump following the announcement detailing his plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure and making it a national priority today. Noting the particular importance of improving rural infrastructure, and pledging $50 billion dollars to do so, this announcement clearly shows the value the Administration places on rural communities, and NCGA looks forward to working with them in their efforts to achieve this important goal.   While NCGA is pleased in the investment in rural infrastructure, plans outlined to address water transportation systems cause some concern in their current state.   Water transportation systems like the Upper Mississippi River corridor are critical corridors of commerce for many industries including agriculture and the nation’s farmers. We are currently depending on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half a century old, and on borrowed time.   Nearly three-quarters of U.S. grain...

(Posted Wed. Oct 26th, 2016)

Keywords: Transportation

New research by the University of Tennessee quantifies what many in agriculture have known for years; failure of our aging river locks and dams along the Mississippi River and its tributaries would be ruinous with billions of dollars in lost jobs and reduced economic activity.   Recently, USDA released estimates of the economic implications to the agriculture sector should a disruption occur at either Lock & Dam 25 on the Upper Mississippi or La Grange Lock & Dam on the Illinois River waterway. The locations were selected because they are representative of the lock system as a whole but also because they occupy key locations on the river system.   “These are both 600 foot locks even though modern tows are 1,200 feet-long. They are also at the lower reaches of the waterways,” said Ken Hartman, chair of the National Corn Growers Association’s Market Access Action Team. “The southbound traffic here already contributes to long delays because of the lock size. But a disruption of...

(Posted Tue. Oct 11th, 2016)

Keywords: infrastructure transportation

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...

(Posted Thu. Sep 29th, 2016)

Keywords: Transportation

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5303, the Water Resources and Development Act of 2016 (WRDA 2016), late Wednesday, by a vote of 399-25. The National Corn Growers Association thanks the House for making the bill a priority during the short September legislative session.   “Farmers and ranchers need to be able to get their products to market quickly and safely, and inland waterways are a critical part of that process for much of the country. The Water Resources Development Act helps maintain and modernize our inland waterways infrastructure and plays a vital role in moving corn to export markets,” said NCGA First Vice President Wesley Spurlock, a farmer from Stratford, Texas.   A main focus of the WRDA 2016 bill is clearing the backlog of projects at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It also provides more than $10 billion in funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop, maintain and support the nation’s port and waterways infrastructures.   “We would...

(Posted Fri. Sep 16th, 2016)

Keywords: Transportation

The National Corn Growers Association praised the U.S. Senate for passing S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2016), and encouraged the House of Representatives leadership to make the bill a priority for the September legislative session.   “Inland waterways are a central part of our country’s transportation infrastructure, helping farmers and ranchers to get their products to market quickly and safely. The Water Resources Development Act is an important step forward in our efforts to maintain and modernize our inland waterways infrastructure,” said NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Brent Hostetler, a farmer from Plain City, Ohio.   This bill provides only minor policy tweaks and is focused on clearing the backlog of projects at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   Additionally, S. 2848 will provide relief from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations by exempting farms with up to...

(Posted Thu. May 26th, 2016)

Keywords: Transportation

The National Corn Growers Association expressed disappointment that the House of Representatives failed to pass the FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill today and urged members to work collaboratively to find a way to pass this important legislation as quickly as possible.   “NCGA, along with 19 other ag groups, sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee earlier this spring supporting the revitalization of our deteriorating inland waterways infrastructure, and our association remains resolute in its support of this key legislation,” said NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Brent Hostetler. “The House bill is important for our farmers who depend on the inland waterways system to export grain and to receive farm inputs like fertilizer for crop production. America’s farmers sustainably produce food, feed and fuel for our nation, growing our economy with their growing crop. It is imperative that House members now do their part by finding a way to come...

(Posted Thu. Jul 30th, 2015)

Keywords: Policy Transportation

The National Corn Growers Association today expressed disappointment that Congress failed to pass a long-term highway funding bill before its August recess. Congress voted to extend the United States Highway Trust Fund’s authorization through Oct. 29, the second such short-term extension this year. “Once again, Congress kicked the can down the road – and that road is in bad shape,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Newburg, Maryland. “Farmers rely on our nation’s infrastructure system every day. We need safe, reliable roads and bridges to get our products to market quickly, safely and efficiently. Instead, our roads and bridges are at best, in disrepair, and at worst, unsafe or unusable – and that hurts every farmer in America.” Eighty percent of the domestic corn crop is trucked to market, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. By one estimate, America’s transportation deficiencies will cost U.S. agriculture $1.3 billion in exports by 2020....

(Posted Wed. May 20th, 2015)

Keywords: Transportation

After the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill late Tuesday to extend the United States Highway Trust Fund’s authorization only through July 31, National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling issued the following statement:   “We are disappointed in Congress’ repeated failure to pass a long-term highway funding bill. There isn’t a county in this country that does not have a road or bridge in need of work. Farmers need all available modes of transportation to safely and efficiently get our products to market and be globally competitive. It’s time to move past short-term stopgaps and toward a long-term strategy to invest in our national infrastructure.”   The Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956, is a federal transportation fund that pays for the construction and maintenance of highways, roads, and bridges. In the past eight years, there have been 32 extensions and five revenue shortfalls to transportation funding. Last July, Congress passed a measure to...

(Posted Fri. Apr 24th, 2015)

Keywords: Transportation

As the new tax quarter began, the Waterways Council and its allies remind effected parties of the 9 cent per gallon barge diesel user fee increase that went into effect April 1. The fee increase and other changes were the result of a broadly supported effort, backed by the National Corn Growers Association, to improve the U.S. inland waterways infrastructure to handle forecasted increases in traffic.   “NCGA and other agriculture groups have advocated for this increase for many years,” said Garry Niemeyer, Illinois farmer and NCGA representative to the Waterways Council. “More than 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports are transported by barge. Shippers and barge operators both lobbied for changes to the system, due in large part to farmers bringing in record grain harvests.”   The fees go toward the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which finances construction and major rehabilitation on the nation’s inland waterways. An estimated $260 million is expected to be generated over...

(Posted Mon. Nov 10th, 2014)

Keywords: Transportation

In a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday, the National Corn Growers Association urged the Army Corps to delay its planned mat-laying work along the Mississippi River and reopen the river to traffic.   On Friday morning, the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division closed the Mississippi River to daylight traffic for a three-mile stretch near Memphis. The closure is expected to last 14 days. According to the Corps, the resulting delays of barge traffic were running about 10 hours over the weekend.   “This comes at a terrible time for U.S. corn farmers,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “We produced a record crop in 2014, much of which will be transported along the Mississippi River. It is imperative that barge traffic not be impeded, and as much grain as possible is transported before winter.”   In the letter, NCGA notes that the closure is being done with little notice, and it will result in significant delays of grain shipments.   In response to concerns...

(Posted Fri. Sep 5th, 2014)

Keywords: Transportation

The National Corn Growers Association submitted comments to the Surface Transportation Board on the ongoing railroad service problems impacting corn growers. The comments, which detailed shipping delays and the industry-specific nuances of grain shipment, provided insight into the negative repercussions railroad delays have on family farmers.   “Based on the large railroad volumes of corn and corn products and relatively short peak seasonal shipping periods, timely and efficient railroad service is obviously extremely important for corn producers and shippers,” the association stated, summarizing the situation farmers face in regard to rail shipments. “NCGA members have been adversely impacted by recent railroad delays and service problems, particularly on BNSF and CP, and we are worried about the railroads abilities to provide timely and efficient service during the upcoming fall harvest and heavy shipping period.”   While the comments noted instances of recent improvements,...

(Posted Thu. Sep 19th, 2013)

Keywords: Transportation Waterways

Sept 19: Today, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013.  The National Corn Growers Association appreciates the bi-partisan effort put forth by members of the committee to clear this legislation of its first major hurdle in the House.    “A modern inland waterways system is critical to American agriculture and to the nation’s economy,” NCGA President Pam Johnson said.  “Every year more than a billion tons of domestic commerce, valued at more than $300 billion, travels through our lock and dam system.   In addition, more than one billion bushels of grain which equates to roughly 60 percent of all grain exports, move to markets via the inland waterways each year.  We can’t afford to allow such an integral part of our value chain continue to deteriorate.”    The bill, which passed by a voice vote, authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue its work on developing, maintaining and...

(Posted Wed. May 15th, 2013)

Keywords: Transportation Locks and Dams

May 15: The National Corn Growers Association thanked members of the U.S. Senate who overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act today, a bill that represents an important step forward in upgrading the inland waterways system. “Our inland waterways, in particular the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, are an important route for moving our corn to markets worldwide,” said NCGA Chairman Garry Niemeyer, who has been active on the water issue for decades. “We’re proud to see such a united Senate approve this with an 83-14 vote and are looking forward to the day when some of these much-needed projects get rolling and get completed.” Of specific interest to corn farmers, the bill contains provisions to remove the over-budget and long-delayed Olmsted lock and dam project from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), the remainder of the cost to be paid 100 percent by general treasury revenue and not cost-shared 50-50 through the IWTF. This action will free up around...

(Posted Fri. Dec 28th, 2012)

Keywords: River Infrastructure Transportation

Dec. 28: The coming new year brings intensified shipping difficulties for barge operators on the stretch of the Mississippi River just south of St. Louis. With ice on the river’s northernmost stretch reducing water levels already seriously affected by the drought, traffic on the nation’s largest waterway could come to a halt by Friday of next week. “While the drought is at the core of the current issues on the Mississippi, this situation also highlights the dire need for infrastructure improvements,” said National Corn Growers Association Chairman Garry Niemeyer, a grower from Auburn, Ill. “At NCGA, we have been pushing for upgrades the locks and dams since 1993, but our federal government has failed to respond. If we continue to ignore our infrastructure, we will lose valuable markets.” Persistent drought has already caused the river to reach low-water points not seen in decades. Despite efforts to keep the waterway open for commerce, such as releasing water reserves from...

(Posted Thu. Nov 15th, 2012)

Keywords: Transportation

Nov. 15: The Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this week that it will proceed with plans to reduce the flow from an upper Missouri River reservoir. This action will be taken despite growing concern that this action will worsen low-water problems on the Mississippi River.  In a recent interview with National Public Radio, National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Research and Development Paul Bertels addressed the situation saying, “we oppose the curtailing of water discharges from the Missouri River until the corps has fixed the issues presented by rock pinnacles in the Mississippi River, thus decreasing the negative impact of lower water levels for traffic using the waterway.”  Corps officials expect to cut the flow from the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota from 17,000 cubic feet per second to 12,000 cubic feet per second starting around Nov. 23. This action is being taken as a drought-related conservation measure. Reducing the amount of water which the...

(Posted Fri. Nov 2nd, 2012)

Keywords: Transportation

Nov 2: Plans to file bipartisan legislation to modernize the nation’s ports, locks and dams have been announced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).  The American Waterworks Act would reform the system that builds and maintains the infrastructure. The National Corn Growers Association is pleased that Sens. Alexander and Graham have recognized the importance of the lock and dam systems to the American economy.  “America’s inland navigation system plays a critical part in a farmers’ business,” NCGA President Pam Johnson said.  “More than one billion bushels of grain, or roughly 60 percent of all grain exports, move via inland waterways each year.  Locks and dams provide jobs, relieve highway and rail congestion and allow American agriculture to be competitive in the world marketplace.”  The legislation would free funds in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund by ending a requirement that revenues go to the Olmsted Lock construction on the Ohio River.  It...

(Posted Fri. Sep 21st, 2012)

Keywords: Transportation

Sept. 21: Yesterday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on reauthorization of the Water Resources and Development Act.  Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) expressed support for moving a WRDA bill to the Senate floor during the lame duck session of Congress.  Members of the Committee expressed support for passing a bill as it authorizes a variety projects nationwide.  The hearing could not have been more timely given the events unfolding in the nation’s heartland.  Earlier in the week, barge traffic on the Mississippi River ground to a halt as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed Lock 27, located near Granite City, Ill., for emergency repairs. The closure, which affected one of the busiest locks on the Mississippi, caused U.S. grain exports to grind to a halt. The National Corn Growers Association, who has conducted sustained efforts to restore the outdated locks and dams systems on the Upper Mississippi and...

(Posted Wed. Aug 22nd, 2012)

Keywords: Transportation

Aug. 22: The National Corn Growers Association last week attended a series of meetings that underscored the need for significant changes to lock funding. The meetings looked at infrastructure repairs, transportation situations and ecosystem projects on the Upper Mississippi River. These events, which brought a broad array of stakeholders together to explore the future of this inland waterways system, were held just as drought conditions forced the closure of an 11-mile stretch of the river, highlighting the impact of disruptions to this important transportation channel.  The first meeting, hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers, examined navigation and ecosystem issues on the waterways and detailed the Corp’s long-range goals and priorities for repairs and improvements to the infrastructure along the river.  Attendees, including representatives from environmental groups, the grain trade, organized labor and shipping interests, looked at the various river projects while touring...

(Posted Thu. Mar 29th, 2012)

Keywords: Transportation

Mar. 29: With a wide variety of pressing issues facing the federal government over the coming months, funding for desperately needed lock and dam improvements remains a high priority for the nation’s corn farmers according to the National Corn Growers Association.  With the country’s inland navigation system moving more than a billion bushels of grain per year, about 60 percent of all grain exports, farmers understand the importance of a functional waterways system.  “Our inland waterway system plays a crucial role in the nation’s economy, and we must act now to help our leaders understand that funding improvements is critical to maintaining our industry’s viability,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer.  Achieving our goal is not only important for farmers and shippers, our nation as a whole will benefit from the job creation and shipping efficiencies this project would generate.”  The country’s inland navigation system plays an even more visible role in the economy also, moving...

(Posted Wed. Feb 22nd, 2012)

Keywords: Trade Transportation

By Rick Tolman, NCGA Chief Executive Officer  Feb. 22:  Along with others from farm country, I recently returned from a visit to Panama, where we were treated to a tour of the Panama Canal and got to see very closely the third canal and series of locks being constructed to expand capacity.    The existing canal is breathtaking with its scale and scope and what it accomplishes, particularly when one thinks of the timeframe of its construction and the technology available at that time.  The new construction and the pace and scale and scope are even more amazing and truly beyond words.  What Panama is doing will clearly position them for the 21st Century and cement their position of being a world trade hub – to the benefit of their populace and economy.  The project will create a new set of locks and a canal alongside the existing canal.  The new channel is designed to handle “Post Panamax” ships and will essentially triple the cargo capacity of the canal. It includes...

(Posted Wed. Nov 16th, 2011)

Keywords: Transportation

Nov. 16: National Corn Growers Association representatives last week traveled to the Panama Canal to explore improvements currently underway with a group of agricultural leaders organized by Informa Economics. During this investigative tour, the group looked at efficiencies in the Panama Canal improvements, particularly those to the locks system, in an attempt to find successful approaches that could be emulated in the United States.  Focusing on the critical need for improvements to the locks and dams on northern sections of the Mississippi River, the group looked at how the Panamanian Canal Authority is managing to accomplish such a large project for a reasonable price tag while remaining both on time and on budget. Analyzing the similarities and differences between the current situation in Panama and projections for the needed improvements on the Mississippi, the group noticed practices which could improve upon the current structure and system for waterway infrastructure...

(Posted Wed. Sep 21st, 2011)

Keywords: Transportation

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...

(Posted Wed. Sep 14th, 2011)

Keywords: Transportation

By Garry Niemeyer, NCGA First Vice President   Sept. 14: In recent years, many farmers have seen good prices and plentiful crops, allowing us to purchase some much needed new equipment. However, we know that tough times usually follow and there will be years we have to make do with what we have, not matter how much we need to replace it. Our nation’s infrastructure is in some wayslike that worn out equipment. Whether its locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi, bridges on interstates or the road to town, we need to address our country’s crumbling infrastructure.  We are all aware that our nation is in serious financial trouble and hence, we cannot afford to replace the entire existing infrastructure. But we do need to have a plan to address how we transport our commodities and our inputs in a safe, efficient and affordable way now and in the future.  The country’s inland navigation system plays a critical role in the nation’s economy, moving more than a billion tons of domestic...