Spring flooding over the past two months has caused damage to 280 miles of levee along the Missouri River.
The staggering damage will take years to get repaired, according to Ken Erikson, senior vice president of agribusiness intelligence at Informa Economics, and is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the failing infrastructure much of the corn belt relies on to bring in inputs and export corn.
“Our infrastructure served us well for decades and it has a life span on it with the engineering design and capabilities,” Erikson told AgriTalk host Chip Flory. “It's lived beyond that, but is going to take a lot of work."
For years agriculture groups have been pressuring lawmakers to spend money improving the waterway infrastructure that farmers rely on. Still, little progress has been made.
“God bless us that we don't get another major flood like this in the near term but we hope that God would bless us with a Congress that would fund these projects,” he said. “Our waterways are just long in the tooth. It's like full hip replacements, double hip replacements, knee replacements all at the same time.”
While there is a lot of talk on Capitol hill about flood events increasing because of climate change, Erikson said they’re not really new. He recalls similar floods in 1993, 1995 and 2011.
“We tell people if you’ve see one flood, you’ve see one flood, because the timing of these floods and the location these floods are very different,” he explained. “These levees and these structures have worked for years but then after a while, they kind of go through their paces, need some reshoring up and need some love and attention given to them. They just can't last in perpetuity. They've really got to be managed and maintained well.”
While levee districts and the Army Corps of Engineers is doing a great job with the resources available, Erikson said it’s not enough.
“We need a full deep-dive on looking at these things and get some action on them,” he said.