And that gets expensive. This study shows that a three-month lock closure would increase the cost of transporting 5.5 million tons of oilseeds and grain, the average shipped by barge during that period, by $71.6 million. A failure at any of the locks examined by the study could cost U.S. farmers up to $45 million in lost revenue.

The U.S. inland waterways represent key infrastructure for transporting U.S. soybeans. Up to 89 percent of soybeans exported through the lower Mississippi ports, such as the Port of New Orleans, arrive at those ports in barges that must transit multiple locks for the trip downstream.

The study, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, examined the condition of locks on the Upper Mississippi River, Illinois River and Ohio River. The study also calculated the economic impact of specific lock failures on districts within states, showing the effect on agricultural commodity prices — and on fertilizer and coal prices, which also depend on upstream river barge shipping.

“It is important that we have a robust transportation system,” adds Foell. “Only by using a combination of the lock and dam system, rail system and truck system can we continue to move our products in a manner that will help us feed the world.”

The USB GO program and STC, which is made up of USB, the American Soybean Association and 11 state soybean checkoff boards, plan to examine new and different ways to fund lock and dam and other rural transportation infrastructure improvements. USB made public and private investment in transportation infrastructure one of its top two priority issues.

USB is made up of 69 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit www.unitedsoybean.org.