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December 3, 2012

Mississippi River Traffic Critical for the Economy

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

The prolonged drought just keeps causing problems. American Farm Bureau transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley talks about the ripple effect that could cause an economic catastrophe in this report from AFBF’s Johnna Miller.
Miller:In a matter of days, unless something drastic happens, the middle Mississippi River is expected to be too low to support commercial navigation. 
Walmsley:The Army Corps is required to reduce flows from the Missouri River, where a majority of the Mississippi River gets its water flows this time of year and so with those releases decreasing, along with rock pinnacles that are protruding in the Mississippi River, it’s making it a rough go for a 9-foot barge to get through. At this point the river will shut down in the middle of December. The question is for how long.
Miller:American Farm Bureau transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley says most people don’t realize what a catastrophic impact that could have on the economy. 
Walmsley:We’re talking close to 7 billion potential dollar impact and this is just over the next couple of months, December and January. You’ll have impacts all the way down the river. We talk about jobs, you’re looking at close to $130 million in lost wages and the loss of about 20,000 jobs.
Miller:Farm Bureau and many others are asking the president to issue an emergency declaration for the Mississippi that would allow the Corps of Engineers to take actions to keep the river flowing enough for barge traffic. 
Walmsley:We’re looking for a balanced approach, a moderated but steady release of water is needed to keep the Mississippi River flowing at a depth needed for commerce. The other thing is to expedite the removal, of rock pinnacles that are in the Mississippi to give us a little bit more clearance on these low water levels to get us through until hopefully this spring when rains come again. Obviously if it doesn’t rain, we’re going to have ongoing issues that would be much more long-term, but we’re hoping to find a short-term solution and then praying for rain.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have two extra actualities with AFBF transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley. In the first extra actuality he talks about how farmers will be affected by a shut-down of barge traffic on the Mississippi River. The cut runs 24 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Walmsley:It’s projected that approximately 300 million bushels of grain and oilseeds worth about $2.3 billion would be delayed with that stretch shut down. It has a huge impact to farmers and ranchers. Right now our global competitiveness is at stake. We export a lot of our ag products this time of year. We get in before South America has their harvest so, getting those products down the river is a huge issue and then we ship those barges back up full of fertilizer, seed and other inputs we’re going to need for the spring.
Miller:In the second extra actuality Walmsley talks about why barge traffic is so crucial for farmers. The cut runs 10 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Walmsley:It would be a double whammy for ag, after the drought of last year and now having the inputs needed for next year. I mean, it does us no good to get our seed or get our fertilizer in the summer. We need it for the upcoming planting in the spring. 
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm Eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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