Updated: Feb. 15, 2022
The reliability and efficiency of the United States transportation system is a significant advantage for U.S. soybean farmers over international competitors. However, global infrastructure is improving, and that progress could have a major economic impact on U.S. soybean farmers. The U.S. must improve and modernize the domestic infrastructure system to maintain our competitive advantage, especially as global demand and domestic production continue to increase.
Why the Checkoff Cares
Farmers rely on efficient transportation infrastructure to bring soybeans to market. Our international customers expect a dependable, consistent supply of high-quality U.S. soybeans delivered on time. As competition between the U.S. and other top soy-producing countries intensifies, maintaining this differentiating factor is critical to sustaining and building preference for U.S. soybeans. The soy checkoff invests in research that supports improvements to U.S. infrastructure so farmers can continue providing the most sustainable, reliable soybeans to customers all over the world.
In 2020, the soy checkoff, along with the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), U.S. Soybean Export Council and the American Soybean Association, announced support of the Lower Mississippi River Dredging Project. This project, led by the Army Corps of Engineers, will deepen the lower Mississippi from 45 to 50 feet, expanding the river’s capacity to accommodate larger ships and increase loads by 500,000 bushels per ocean vessel. This project will bring an additional $461 million in revenue to U.S. soybean farmers. The checkoff contributed $2 million to this project to offset costs for planning, analysis, design and research.
In May 2021, the STC, which is supported in part by the soy checkoff, announced an agreement with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation to encourage greater utilization of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway by soybean exporters. Through this agreement, agricultural shippers are incentivized to use the St. Lawrence Seaway for exports through a 50% reduction in shipping tolls. This agreement is mutually beneficial, providing diversified export options for U.S. soybeans and creating new business for the seaway.
In November 2021, the soy checkoff — along with Qualified State Soybean Boards in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa — proposed a $1 million investment to offset costs of pre-engineering and design work to enhance and maintain Lock and Dam #25 on the upper Mississippi River. Lock and Dam #25 is one of seven existing locks specified by the federal Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program for improvements. These existing locks, constructed in the 1930s, experience significant delays due to their single 600-foot lock chambers that require 1,200-foot barges to be disconnected and double-locked.
- The U.S. transportation infrastructure is currently the best in the world. The system requires modernization to sustain our competitive advantage.
- Barge transport of soybeans provides the most economical, efficient and sustainable method of transportation for U.S. soybeans.
- The lock and dam infrastructure along the U.S. inland waterways needs attention. Most locks and dams are more than 50 years old. The system requires investment to maintain, rehabilitate and update.
- Investment in infrastructure is critical to ensure U.S. soybean farmers can continue to move soybeans from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. This ensures domestic and international customers receive a steady supply of U.S. soybeans.
- International soy buyers often cite predictability of delivery as important as price, so maintaining system reliability is important to meet demand.
Facts & Figures
- The lower Mississippi River spans 256 miles and accounts for 60% of U.S. soybean exports, which arrive via the inland waterway system.
- Soy checkoff-funded research by the STC showed the Lower Mississippi River Dredging Project would save 13 cents per bushel of freight and bring an additional $461 million in additional revenue to U.S. soybean farmers.
- Agricultural products comprise 70% of the goods transported through the upper Mississippi River.
- The St. Lawrence Seaway extends 2,340 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the head of the Great Lakes in Duluth, Minnesota, and currently carries less than 2% of U.S. soybean exports.
- If approved for federal funding, the Lock and Dam #25 improvement project will be the first under the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, a long-term program authorized by Congress to improve and restore the upper Mississippi River.
- The United States has 236 locks at 191 sites spanning more than 25,000 miles of commercially navigable inland waterways.
- Sixty percent of U.S. soybean exports depart from the Mississippi Gulf region.
- A lengthy failure at a key lock and dam along the inland waterway system could result in tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue for U.S. farmers, according to the STC.