Highlighting the importance of the inland waterway transportation system and how drastically the infrastructure on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers is in need of modernization, National Corn Growers Association Corn Board member Bob Dickey educated nearly 90 participants this week in a Web seminar discussing U.S. transportation capabilities.

Dickey said the Web seminar, "Commodities: From Origin to Destination," was a great and innovative way to talk to individuals who would not necessarily know NCGA's issues and the importance of the river system to our industry.

"This was a great venue for NCGA to educate the general public on our organization and why we are advocating so hard for passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bill that would authorize construction of seven locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers," said Dickey.

"As with our highways, interchanges and airports, the purpose of modernization on the rivers is to make the entire system more efficient," he said. "It's vital to let the public know that robust investment in our nation's inland waterway infrastructure is necessary for a strong economy. Right now, we provide the world with a safe and abundant food supply; however, if we fail to modernize our inland waterway infrastructure, we will lose our international competitive edge, and the world will look elsewhere for basic food commodities."

Dickey's presentation covered a wide variety of issues associated with WRDA, including the impact agriculture felt after the devastating hurricanes of last year, the cost of moving crops and the comparison of modes of transportation for those crops, as well as corn growers' efforts to get authorization and funding for efficient modes of transportation.

"It is important to note that NCGA believes that maintenance to all modes of transportation is critical; however, maintenance for the navigation systems on the rivers has lagged far behind that of the highways and rail system," Dickey said. "The Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers are this nation's third coast, and with the global food, feed, fiber and energy demands expected to grow in the coming decades, we must begin now to modernize the outdated and decaying system in order to fulfill these growing demands."

Dickey also said barge traffic is more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective versus the rail system.

"Grain traveling by barge can be off-loaded mid-stream onto ocean-going vessels, whereas rail shipments require special handling," Dickey said. "Right now, rail capacity is at its limits. Barges also are less hazardous to the environment, using far less energy, lessening the air and noise pollutions and are much more cost effective because barges operate at 10 percent of the cost of trucks and 40 percent of the cost of trains."

The Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors hosted the Web seminar in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. The purpose of the event was to educate those in the transportation industry and help them understand the process of freight movement and the importance of strong transportation infrastructure.

In addition to Dickey, Shannon Menard, of the Coalition for America's Gateways & Trade Corridors, and Pete Beaulieu, with the Puget Sound Regional Council, gave presentations on rail, freight and other intermodal issues.

The seminar presentation is available on the Transportation section of www.ncga.com.

SOURCE: NCGA news release.