Farm Talk

Ag News from Around the Country

September 17, 2013

WRDA critical to improving water transportation

Parsons, Kansas — There’s hardly a school kid who is not familiar with the American folksong, “Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal.” The song went by a number of names including “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.” If you remember your American history, you’ll recall that the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo, N.Y., was a marvelous engineering feat. Work commenced in 1817, and the 363-mile canal was finished by 1825, just eight years later.

Today, it would take the entire eight years just to study whether the canal should be built, and that is no exaggeration. The canal cost $7 million to construct. Nowadays, the rehabilitation of one lock on an inland waterway can cost $50 million.

Farmers were some of the strongest supporters of building the Erie Canal while President James Monroe opposed it. The New York legislature went ahead without federal support, and costs were recovered from tolls.

Once again, American farmers are strong supporters of the nation’s ports and inland waterways. The American Farm Bureau Federation has made the Water Resources Development Act one of its top legislative priorities. The WRDA of 2013 passed the Senate in May and is expected to be taken up by the House this fall.

The Erie Canal is credited with making New York City the financial capital of America. WRDA will help the United States retain its position as the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products. Without it, we face the prospect of falling behind a big competitor like Brazil that is modernizing its infrastructure.

Most of us are familiar with inadequate roads and crumbling bridges, but we don’t have firsthand knowledge of the condition of ports and waterways, which are just as bad or worse. According to the World Economic Forum, U.S. harbors rank 22nd in the world. Of the top 10 global ports, six are in China.

The Panama Canal is undergoing an expansion that will allow passage of ships with three times more cargo capacity. However, only a few U.S. ports, generally those on the West Coast, are capable of handling the larger ships. Shipping costs for agriculture and other industries could drop significantly if port facilities and harbors are upgraded, to say nothing of the jobs that would be created.

The inland waterway system is in bad shape, too. Many of the locks are well beyond intended lifetimes, and a vast majority of lock chambers are undersized to accommodate typical tows of 15 barges. This makes transport of grain about as slow as the mule-drawn barges that once plied the Erie Canal.

In addition to modernizing and expanding the water transportation network, WRDA includes major policy reforms that cut federal red tape and bureaucracy and streamline the project delivery process. WRDA will not inspire songwriters as the Erie Canal did, but it is critically important for Congress to pass it. £

Stewart Truelsen is a regular contributor to the Focus on Agriculture series and is the author of a book marking the American Farm Bureau Federation's 90th anniversary, Forward Farm Bureau.

1
Text Only
Ag News from Around the Country
  • BLM under fire for slaughter horses

    The Bureau of Land Management rounded up a horse herd that roamed for decades on federal land in northwest Wyoming and handed the horses over to Wyoming officials. They, in turn, sold the herd to the highest bidder, a Canadian slaughterhouse.

    April 22, 2014

  • Feds release cattle

    U.S. authorities released 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land from a rancher who refused to recognize their authority, in a dispute that drew hundreds of protesters to his defense and fueled a debate over state and federal land rights.

    April 15, 2014

  • APAC.jpg In search of a cost-effective fuel for cooking in rural Africa

    Most, if not all, food in Guede Chantier, Senegal is cooked over a wood fire. This is typical of the situation in much of rural sub-Saharan Africa. The acquiring of firewood often is a task that is added to all of the other household and farming/marketing tasks that are carried out by women.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • EPA water proposal stirs ag controversy

    Proposed new language in the Clean Water Act has some farm groups charging the government is over-stepping its authority by expanding jurisdiction of “waters of the United States.”

    April 1, 2014

  • Ag may be biggest beneficiary of drones

    For centuries, farmers have braved the elements to walk their land to check for problems ranging from wind damage and calving cows to pests and predators.
    Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) may save farmers time and money with bird’s-eye views of farmland, says Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Webster County.

    March 25, 2014

  • Implementation of 2014 Farm Bill allows farmers time to make an informed choice

    With the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill well into the 2014 crop year for winter wheat and the planning period for other row crops and with the significant changes Congress made to commodity policy—the elimination of Direct Payments, the need for farmers to choose between Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), and the addition of the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) to the insurance program—the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was faced with a compressed time period in which to write all of the appropriate guidelines and regulations if farmers were to have to make their choices between PLC and ARC this spring.

    March 11, 2014

  • Farmland.jpg Fed survey suggests farmland ‘cooling’

    Farmland markets in the middle of the country may have begun to cool, according to a survey of bankers in the Federal Reserve’s Tenth District.
    The district includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, the northern half of New Mexico and the western third of Missouri.

    March 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • APAC-chart.jpg Price and the value of agricultural exports

    Exports are a big deal for agriculture, always have been and always will be. Of course, the mix of agricultural exports has changed over time.

    February 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Farm bill synopsis:

    February 11, 2014

  • Farm bill plows under direct payments

    Farm subsidies that have guided agriculture through record profits in recent years are going away in the five-year farm bill that could become law in the coming week. But new subsidies in the legislation could be just as generous, and farmers aren't complaining.

    February 4, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content