The Midwest Area River Coalition (MARC 2000), which includes the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), recently urged President George W. Bush to support modernization of the failing locks and dams system on the Upper Mississippi River System.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the president, the group underscored the perilous state of infrastructure on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers and implored Bush to back the Army Corps of Engineers' recommendation to modernize at least seven key locks on the system.

"New locks are crucial to keeping the Mississippi and Illinois rivers working, and keeping America's economy moving," the letter states. "We strongly encourage you to support congressional action to modernize our aging and deteriorating infrastructure and initiate ecosystem restoration."

Continued failure to upgrade the system would likely cause a drop in exports, decreased farm income and lost jobs, the letter says. "Meeting future international demand for corn, soybean and other grains will be impossible without a modernized river infrastructure," the group said.

Today, more than 400,000 jobs are tied to river transportation, adding more than $12 billion to the U.S. economy, MARC 2000 said. Construction of seven new locks and the ecosystem restoration project would create at least 48 million man-hours of labor, enhancing the productivity and profitability of communities throughout the Midwest.

In addition to the economic stimulus, lock modernization would help displace traffic from the nation's overcrowded highways and railways, according to NCGA CEO Rick Tolman, who also serves at chairman of MARC 2000's board of directors.

"Without a reliable river transportation system, grain producers will be forced to ship by alternate modes of transportation," he said. "That means more trucks and trains will be passing through our communities on roadways and rails that are already overburdened. Consider that just one 15-barge tow carries the same amount of freight as 870 trucks."

Source: Association Release