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USB members tour river transportation infrastructure

Contractors work on repairs at Lock #15 in Rock Island, IL

Soybean growers from several states got a close look at inland waterway infrastructure Thursday.

Casey Watkins

The ability to keep the inland waterway system moving is important to soybean producers like Casey Watkins, whose family raises 1500 acres of soybeans and dairy replacement heifers just south of the Illinois-Wisconsin border.  “We make better quality and higher quantities of corn and soybeans every day, and we need to get it to our markets as fast as possible and as most efficient as possible and whether it’s up to us, whether it’s up to whoever, we need to be looking forward at expanding these locks and dams to be prepared for the future in next 50 years.”

Shipping has grown, and so have the size of the barges since the locks opened in 1934, and Watkins is concerned the 600-foot locks might need to be enlarged to accommodate barges without the nearly 2-hour-long task of untying and retying barges locking through.  “During the busiest season, we look at adding almost an entire day on to our shipping needs and bringing up our fertilizer backhauling them, we just look at more and more delays back to  back to back and higher shipping costs which is kind of a concern for us.”  The upper Mississippi River has only three 12-hundred foot locks at Keokuk, Iowa, Granite City, Illinois, and Alton, Illinois.

Loren Robey

Loren Robey raises 2500 acres of double-crop beans and 500 acres of full season beans on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.  She tells Brownfield the waterway infrastructure is vital to growers.  “It looks like everything could use a major updating, and it’s kind of concerning to see that this isn’t a priority, that it hasn’t been updated recently and it could definitely use it because it’s vital to what we do.”

Jimmy Sneed

Jimmy Sneed is USB’s Secretary and Audit Committee Chairman.  He says the leaks and places where cement is crumbling need to be addressed.  “You can certainly see the wear and tear on this facility over time and it’s something we really need to have at the top of our list as a priority.”

Sneed says events like the See For Yourself Tour are also helpful as producers get to see what’s important for soybean research and promotion, and how the checkoff works.  He says it also helps surface leadership, which every organization needs.

The Rock Island, Illinois stop at Lock and Dam #15 was part of the United Soybean Board’s See For Yourself tour.

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