The Mississippi River is a major shipping artery for Iowa goods, especially the agricultural products we grow here every day. Corn and soybeans find themselves on barges heading for gulf ports to be transported all over the world. However, there are limitations to how much traffic can head down the river and how much it can carry. For years, agricultural groups and farm-state lawmakers have lobbied for improvements to the Mississippi river infrastructure. Now, the first step has been green-lighted.
The Army Corps of Engineers has finalized the details of a river deepening project on the lower Mississippi River, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico. Senator Joni Ernst talks about the project. She says the deepening of the river will help get heavier barges down the river more efficiently.
Senator Ernst says many Iowa agriculture groups, including the Iowa Soybean Association, have been advocating for this project to happen. Senator Ernst talks about the meetings she has had to help move this endeavor forward.
The $85 million being contributed by the Army Corps of Engineers will be part of their fiscal year 2020 project budget. They also have committed another $45.7 million from their fiscal year 2021 budget. This is despite the call from President Trump for many Federal agencies to slash their budgets in the coming fiscal year. The state of Louisiana is expected to contribute about $100 million dollars to the project as well. This is a lot of money, but the economic benefits all the way up the river basin should more than outweigh the costs. Senator Ernst says the benefit to Iowa Soybean producers alone should come to about $71 million.
The upgrades needed to the Mississippi River infrastructure only begin with this dredging. Senator Ernst says she is still working to improve other areas, including the lock and dam systems.
The project will deepen the river from 45 to 50 feet along the route from Baton Rouge to the south.