The United Soybean Board recently pledged $2 million to deepening the lower Mississippi River.
The project, set forth by stakeholders, will cover a 256-mile stretch, starting near Baton Rouge, Louisiana and ending by the Gulf of Mexico. Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, shares why this stretch of waterway was chosen.
“That accounts for 60-percent of U.S. soybean exports (and) 59-percent of corn exports, (which is) by far the number one export region for both commodities,” Steenhoek said. “There’s been a long-standing effort among stakeholders to deepen that stretch of the River from 45-feet, the federal authorized depth, to 50-feet. When you add five-feet, you’re able to take the ocean vessels, which handle our exports and load them heavier with grains or other commodities. You can (also) attract larger ships. The result of is it makes your industry more competitive.”
Steenhoek believes soybean farmers saw this as an opportunity to increase competitiveness, especially during a time of market uncertainty.
“During a time when there’s a lot of challenges confronting the industry, the temptation could be passive, reluctant or pullback. Soybean farmers are leaning in, being more aggressive because they are fighting hard to make sure they are maintaining competitiveness and in this case, enhancing competitiveness. Soybean farmers would stand to benefit,” Steenhoek said.
The Lower Mississippi River dredging project has a 25-percent non-federal obligation and 75-percent federal obligation. Donations from the United Soybean Board will cover the one year of work, which could begin this year.
“Now we’re waiting on the federal government, who is 75-percent responsible for the cost of the project. That’s where the real effort remains, in getting the federal government to stop being distracted by many other issues and focus some attention on a specific project that can provide benefit to agriculture and the broader U.S. economy,” Steenhoek said. “Soybean farmers are willing to step up to the plate. Can the federal government follow suit?”