The Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association have applauded Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act.
The WRDA legislation authorizes the construction of seven 1,200-foot locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.
Bob Dickey, Nebraska Corn Board director from Laurel, who also serves as first vice-president of the National Corn Growers Association, says that infrastructure improvements will directly benefit farmers in the Eastern Cornbelt. But they are also important for Nebraska producers.
"Of course, most of the corn we produce in Nebraska is either fed or processed in-state, or is shipped to southern or western markets via railroads," Dickey says. "But as we saw a couple of years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when you have problems with barge movement on the Mississippi, it can have a ripple effect throughout the country. Without continued strong competition between the barge, truck and rail companies, our basis and our markets in the Western Cornbelt are adversely affected."
Randy Uhrmacher, Nebraska Corn Growers Association president from Juniata, says that without lock modernization, Eastern Cornbelt states could begin to lose access to their export markets through the Gulf of Mexico. If that occurred, those states would be forced to start looking at markets to the southwest—areas that are traditionally strong markets for Nebraska corn.
"In the past couple of years, we have seen more competition from Illinois corn moving to Texas feedlots," Uhrmacher says. "And with the expansion of the ethanol industry all across the U.S., those eastern states will have greater supplies of ethanol co-products such as distillers grains to deal with. We're hopeful that as river system modernization takes place, they will continue to export most of their corn, as well as their ethanol co-products, to other countries."
All five members of Nebraska's congressional delegation voted for WRDA passage.
"Overturning the president's veto is just a permission slip to seek funding through the annual appropriations process," Dickey says. "For some time now, NCGA has worked to secure pre-construction dollars for the Upper Mississippi River System projects, but the real work now begins with a full-court press to obtain construction dollars through the annual appropriations process."