BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — After decades of advocacy, education, diligence and tenacity, the Illinois Corn Growers Association celebrated the groundbreaking of brand-new, 1,200-foot Lock 25 along the Mississippi River near Winfield, Missouri.
“The important advancement would not be happening without the partnership of the Waterways Council Inc., as well as the important coalition members who have joined corn farmers in pursuit of upgraded river infrastructure along the way,” ICGA stated.
“Many thanks to the MidAmerica Carpenters Regional Council for their tireless advocacy for the jobs this project will provide, as well as the conservation groups that joined our voices asking for environmental restoration to accompany this project.”
Finally getting to this point is cause for celebration, said Matt Rush, ICGA president and farmer from Fairfield.
“I am speaking for all corn farmers — corn farmers that attended barge tours, corn farmers that called their elected officials on this issue, corn farmers that walked the halls of Congress with their association to ask for new locks and dams — when I say how excited we are to see this progress,” Rush said.
“Illinois is the largest corn exporting state in the nation, and those significant international sales are built on the network of our river system.”
Rush noted the river transportation provides the lowest cost, greenest, most efficient means to transport corn from Illinois to global customers, but the locks and dams that empower the industry are broken.
The groundbreaking ceremony celebrates one more step towards the updated infrastructure that will make farmers competitive in the global market.
Lock and Dam 25 was opened in 1939 and is the most southern lock and dam on the Mississippi River with a single, 600-by-110-foot lock chamber.
“Over time, we’ve done analysis on the cost of inefficiencies (on a per-lock basis). Those costs change, but it’s about a penny to a penny and a half per bushel per lock. By the time we upgrade all seven locks, farmers are gaining about 8 to 10 cents per bushel of efficiency to the system and they should see at least a penny per bushel in gained efficiency when the new 1,200-foot Lock 25 at Winfield is operational,” said Jim Tarmann, Illinois Corn managing director, who has worked on this issue for most of his career.
Former ICGA and National Corn Growers Association leader Garry Niemeyer from Auburn remembers hours, days and weeks of advocacy for upgraded locks and dams.
“When we would walk into a congressional office with a member of the Carpenter’s Union, sometimes the member would be surprised to see us working together. But I’m a farmer and I needed to move my grain. He’s representing guys and gals that needed jobs. This is a project that we both needed and I’m excited to see progress being made,” Niemeyer said.
The new lock construction is part of the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act.
The ICGA noted special thanks to Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, and Grain and Feed Association of Illinois for their advocacy partnership on this river infrastructure need.