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The Vital Role of U.S. Transportation Infrastructure in Moving Agriculture Forward reviews the impact of deteriorating infrastructure on U.S. agricultural competitiveness in the global market, focusing as an example on soybeans grown in the state of Illinois.
The U.S. boasts more than 25,000 miles of coastal, intracoastal and inland waterways, which are essential to agriculture’s success, particularly for moving products to export. According to the American Waterway Operators (AWO), annual traffic on America’s inland navigation routes carries the equivalent of 58 million semi-truck trips each year.
Waterways are especially important for soybean producers, as 58 percent of U.S. soybean exports exit the country via the Mississippi River Gulf ports alone.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation’s inland waterways and rivers a D grade in its 2017 assessment as the U.S. system of locks and dams is outdated and in dire need of maintenance and repair. In many cases, inland waterways systems have not been comprehensively updated since the 1950s, and more than half of the locks are over 50 years old. The LaGrange Lock on the Illinois River is 80 years old, with concrete crumbling and other critical components difficult to maintain.
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