ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, U.S. — National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) staff, state staff and grower leaders participated in a river collaboration trip, in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River St. Louis district, to see firsthand the infrastructure and inner workings of the inland waterway system.

On the first day, the group boarded the barge at Lock and Dam 22, located near Saverton, Missouri, U.S., roughly 10 miles southeast of Hannibal. This lock and dam have been in operation since 1938. In 2017, more than 21 million tonnes of food and farm products went through this lock and dam.

“Agriculture relies so heavily on the inland waterways system to move our product each year to export markets,” said Michael Lefever, chair of the Market Access Action Team (MAAT). “With more than 60% of grain exports in the U.S. being moved by barge, having up-to-date infrastructure is imperative. This trip helped us learn more about the needs and challenges of the river district outside of infrastructure.”

The group traveled from Saverton nearly 60 miles south down the Mississippi River to Lock and Dam 25 near Winfield, Missouri. This lock and dam became operational in 1939. In 1999, a $52 million rehabilitation project was completed. In 2017, more than 22 million tons of food and farm products were moved through this lock and dam system.

“We heard from a number of groups on this trip on the importance of a healthy river ecosystem and various initiatives to protect the habitat, surrounding land and the people who live near the river,” said Larry Mussack, vice-chair of MAAT. “Having an understanding of the concerns for other groups will help us think through ways we can collaborate with non-traditional partners in the future.”

During the trip, participants heard about several initiatives pertaining to inland waterways, including floodplain prioritization, species management and water quality monitoring.

The river tour was put on by the River Resources Action Team, a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Others on the trip included: Matt Amick, director of industry relations at the Missouri Corn Growers Association; Brent Hoerr, Missouri corn farmer; Sarah McKay, director of market development; Michael Granche, manager of market development; Sarah Doese, manager of public policy and regulatory affairs; and Julie Busse, senior manager of communications.

The trip comes a month after the USDA released a study that measured the significance on inland waterways for U.S. ag.

It addresses the connection between the inland waterways and the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture in global markets. U.S. farmers and agribusinesses, as well as the overall U.S. economy and balance of trade, depend upon the inland waterways and its infrastructure, which provide safe, lowest-cost and most environmentally sustainable and fuel-efficient way to move grain and other agricultural products.