Boosted river infrastructure would combat food inflation
Ag leaders are calling for improved shipping infrastructure in the Mississippi River basin to make U.S. ag exports more competitive and lower food costs.
Port of South Louisiana CEO Paul Matthews said a key project is deepening sections of the lower Mississippi River by five feet, reaching a depth of 50 feet so larger barges can enter the port.
“That is an impact of more than $15.5 billion with a ‘b’ to our economy, to the American farmers and what happens in their pockets and what happens to their crops,” he said.
Matthews said a new grain elevator is being built in St. Johns Parish northwest of New Orleans to help handle the 60 percent of U.S. grain exports that go down the Mississippi River. He said the elevator will be the first to be built in Louisiana in 40 years.
Mike Steenhoek with the Soy Transportation Coalition said infrastructure progress is being made within the river basin, pointing to Winfield, Missouri’s Lock and Dam 25’s expansion through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. He said further projects would save consumers on food costs by allowing more efficient barge travel.
“Because we have these inefficiencies, we therefore have costs that are inserted into our food delivery system,” Steenhoek said. “One of the best ways to address food inflation is to enhance the transportation system that accommodates that food delivery.”
Steenhoek tells Brownfield river infrastructure would be less costly if the U.S. were more proactive instead waiting for flooding or drought to spur emergency action.
“One of the things that just frustrates me is how reactive we as a nation are,” he said. “…just responding to catastrophes, it really is a recipe for being expensive.”
Steenhoek said future lock and dam projects should be prioritized from south to north.
Matthews and Steenhoek made their comments on a joint media call Thursday.