As Iowa farmers will tell you, the only thing more important than growing their crops is having access to the markets to sell those crops. For many of our farmers across Iowa, market access depends on the ability to haul our goods down the Mississippi River, where the crops can be exported both domestically and internationally through the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, more than half of all U.S. corn and soybean exports, including those grown and harvested by Iowa farmers, are shipped through the stretch of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico—or what’s called the Mississippi River Ship Channel. As the country’s top exporter of both corn and soybeans, access to this channel directly affects our state’s agriculture economy.
For a few years now, there’s been talk about a dredging project along this southern portion of the Mississippi River. The project would deepen the Mississippi River Ship Channel from 45 feet to 50 feet. The additional five feet would allow ships to carry more soybeans, corn, and other goods through the channel, and in turn would lead to lower shipping costs and increased returns for Iowa’s producers.
Iowans from across our agricultural community have told me about the need for this dredging project and the positive impact it could have for our state. So I got to work.
Just last month, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) was in the midst of developing the list of projects it will fund and begin work on this year, I met with Assistant Secretary of the Army, R.D. James— who oversees all aspects of the Corps Civil Works program, including flood control and navigation. I stressed the need for the Corps to fund this key project and expressed the broad support it has from Iowa’s agriculture community.
Following my meeting, I was pleased that, just days later, the Corps officially selected the Mississippi River dredging project as one it will fund and begin work on in 2020.
This project will put more money in the pockets of our hardworking farmers and will help make Iowa’s agriculture products more competitive in the global market. For our Iowa soybean farmers, for example, completion of this project is estimated to result in an additional $71 million in revenue.
Farmers received welcome news with the recent passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the signing of the U.S.-China phase one trade agreement. I’m extremely pleased this project is being prioritized by the Corps and has the support to get underway, delivering another piece of good news for folks across the heartland that will position them for success for years to come.
As someone who grew up on a family farm in Southwest Iowa, I will never stop fighting for our farmers. I’m proud to deliver this win for the folks that work so hard to feed and fuel the world.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.