Economic Benefits of Improving the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

The Upper Mississippi and Illinois River System should play a huge role in solving the energy, environmental and employment challenges. Yet, century-old infrastructure simply won’t work to meet the challenges that lay ahead.

Increase U.S. Competitiveness

  • The value of products moved by the river is $12 billion per year.
  • In any given year 1 billion bushels of grain (or 60 percent of the bulk agricultural exports) are moved to world ports via the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
  • The inland waterway system is a major advantage U.S. farmers have over competitors.
  • Argentina, Brazil and China have made investments in their transportation systems and are dramatically reducing their costs for moving grain.
  • Modernization of our inland waterway transportation system will help ensure farmers receive the best price for their crops, meet their customers’ demand for timely delivery of products and successfully compete with foreign producers.

Secure America’s Future

  • The infrastructure on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers was built in the 1930s when the total corn crop for the country was two billion bushels. Today, corn growers are producing 11 billion bushel crops — a trend that will continue to grow.
  • Failure to build seven 1,200 foot locks by 2020 will result in $562 million in lost farm income and a widening of the trade deficit by an additional $245 million.
  • Barge transportation is not just about moving grain. It impacts the lives of all citizens in the Midwest. Among numerous benefits, barge transportation competes with railroads to keep coal rates down, resulting in lower utility bills, and delivers salt to the Midwest for de-icing highways.

Create U.S. Jobs

  • Navigation on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers supports over 400,000 jobs, including 90,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs.
  • Lock modernization would create an additional 48 million man hours of work for the region. That translates to 3,000-6,000 jobs/year for the duration of construction.
  • One dollar invested in navigation projects yields $6 in national benefits.

The world population is forecast to grow to 7.6 billion by 2020. In order for the U.S. to capture an increasing share of the global food demand, we need to increase the efficiency of our transportation systems. Otherwise, we will surrender another valuable market to our competitors.

Environmental Benefits of Improving the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers