Deteriorating condition of the U.S. lock and dam system puts the competiveness of U.S. soybean farmers at risk according to a study funded by the United Soybean Board’s (USB’s) and the soybean checkoff’s Global Opportunities (GO) program.

Entitled “America’s Locks & Dams: A Ticking Time Bomb for Agriculture,” the in-depth examination coordinated by the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) found American farmers and consumers “…will suffer severe economic distress” if catastrophic U.S. lock or dam failures take place.

More than half of the structures that are part of the U.S. inland waterway system for river barge shipping exceed their 50-year usable lifespan, according to the soybean checkoff-funded report. More than one-third surpass 70 years of age, a concern because major rehabilitation is usually necessary to expand the typical lifespan from 50 to 75 years, according to the study.

“The GO committee invested in this study to calculate the impact of the worsening condition of the lock and dam system and what the impact would be on the rail and highway system if those locks failed,” says Laura Foell, soybean farmer from Schaller, Iowa, and chair of the GO committee.

“It is important for all in the industry and in the public sector to have the information necessary to make informed decisions when it comes to investing in our locks and dams.”

Just on the Ohio River alone, the accumulated shipping delays at broken-down locks has more than tripled since 2000, rising from 25,000 hours to 80,000 annually.