Ohio River Tour Offers Glimpse into Waterways and Infrastructure System

The Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and soybean checkoff recently hosted the 6th annual Ohio River Tour where 300 farmers, transportation experts, media representatives and industry representatives got to experience first-hand how grain from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky makes its way down the Ohio River to customers all around the world.

 Highlighting challenges and opportunities our waterway and river infrastructure system are currently facing, participants heard from local business owners who explained how they use the Ohio River and some brief history of the area. In addition, attendees experienced how the river transportation works on a day to day basis.

The inland waterway system contributes greatly to U.S. soybean farmers’ competitive advantage, efficiently moving millions of bushels of U.S. soybeans to export position every year. Because of the U.S. rivers, rails and roads, international customers of U.S. soybeans soy can get their soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil faster and cheaper than from competitors.

Soybean farmers depend on a network of waterways including locks, dams and ports to move soybeans from the U.S. to its markets.

“There are twenty locks and dams on the Ohio River and many are operating past their intended capacity. Annually, more than 51.8 million tons of grain is shipped out of the Ohio River. Out of that 51.8 million tons, one Barge alone can accommodate 52,500 – 57,000 bushels of soybeans,” said Pat Knouff, OSC board member and soybean farmer from Shelby County.

Throughout the nation, there are 171 lock sites with 207 lock chambers. Those locks with more than one chamber allow traffic to continue if the main chamber is temporarily out of service. Of the 37 locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway, only 3 have more than one chamber. All the locks along the Ohio River have two chambers.

“You can’t overestimate the importance of the river system and we have to do whatever it takes to maintain them,” said  Knouff. “The U.S. needs functioning locks and dams or the agriculture industry will be at risk of losing millions in revenue.”

Over half of all soybeans grown in the U.S. and Ohio are exported overseas and the majority travel down the Mississippi River and out of the Port of New Orleans. Soybeans are a big part of the positive agricultural trade surplus, ensuring that soybeans make it to international customers in a timely manner. Overall, the event illustrated the need for a dependable river transportation system for farmers and the entire U.S. economy.

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