River Investment Could Save Farmers Millions

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IOWA -- U.S. soybean farmers are pushing to add value to one of the primary ways they export their products.

The lower Mississippi River bottom accounts for 60% of soybean exports. It is currently 45 feet deep along the 256 miles of Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico, but if it was deepened by five more feet, the Soy Transportation Coalition says it will lower terminal costs by 13 cents per bushel.

The United Soybean Board announced a $2 million allocation to help offset the planning, design, and research costs of making the Mississippi 50 feet deep. That is to jump start the process and would combine with the obligations of $21 million in federal funding and $7.5 million from Louisiana for the first year of work.

The total project cost is expected to be about $245 million over three phases. But U.S. soybeans are expected to export 1.87 billion bushels of beans next year, lowering the price of 60% of that by 13 cents. That would save more than $140 million in one year alone.

Mike Steenhoek with the Soy Transportation Coalition says investment in transportation is an Iowa issue, "When you make our transportation system more cost effective, more economical. In this case, the barge to ocean vessel journey the results of that can be farmers in the interior parts of the country receiving a higher value for what they produce. The basis will narrow, or even become more positive."

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