Congressional Members Host River Industry Infrastructure Discussion - Kentucky Farm Bureau

Congressional Members Host River Industry Infrastructure Discussion

Posted on Apr 11, 2018


Three members of Congress including Kentucky’s James Comer, Missouri’s Jason Smith and Tennessee’s David Kustoff recently held a river industry infrastructure discussion in Paducah. Local and regional stakeholders, including those from the agriculture sector attended and talked about the importance of river transportation in an area heavily dependent on it.

Comer, represents the state’s 1st District in West Kentucky, while Smith hails from

Southeast Missouri’s 8th District, and Kustoff, represents western Tennessee’s 8th District. The three spoke of moves at the federal level to shore up river infrastructure needs while attendees spoke to the issues they see on a daily basis, when it comes to river transportation.

Congressmen James Comer, Jason Smith, and David Kustoff listened to stakeholders during a meeting to discuss the regions waterways infrastructure.

Agriculturally speaking, the region represented at the meeting depends heavily on the rivers to move their products out to domestic and foreign markets, as well as to access necessary inputs for their operations.

Comer said the importance of a viable waterway system is substantial. “We had an instance when one of the locks went down and, it affected the price of grain up the river. That broken lock situation had a detrimental effect for the three-week period it was out of operation,” he said. “We need to have a viable waterway system. The inland waterways are a significant part of infrastructure in America.”

Comer added that the current system is in need of repair and one of the goals of convening this panel was to listen to stakeholders in how to move forward to try and ensure a viable system that helps to get products to waiting ports.

Smith said it is estimated that over 550 million tons of products will be moved through the inland waterway system.

Many of Kentucky's agricultural products are moved via the state's waterways system.

“When you look at the area I represent, all of our grains are transported to the multiple ports along the Mississippi,” he said. “From an economic perspective, in getting our grains where they need to go, the inland waterways are so important.”

Having the proper infrastructure is also crucial to help with flooding issues, something many people in his district are always watching, added Smith.

There has been much discussion at the federal level to address the issues facing all transortations modes. But Kustoff said the longer expenditures on infrastructure needs are delayed, the more expensive it will become in the future. “It’s important to get these infrastructure bills done, hopefully this year,” he said.

Kustoff added that he thinks it will be a series of legislation to combat the issue as opposed to one large bill.

Kentucky Farm Bureau State Directors Sharon Furches and Glenn Howell attended the meeting. They both agree that every farmer in America benefits from a sound transportation infrastructure.

“We utilize our roads, rail and waterways to ship commodities to markets and to bring in needed fuel, fertilizer, seed and crop inputs to our farms,” said Furches. “We have to make sure our waterways, roadways and rail are properly maintained to allow us to efficiently deliver goods to markets and be competitive around the world.”

The Congressional members took questions from the press after the meeting.

Howell said a solid infrastructure is not only essential to local communities, it provides the critical link to global markets farmers need.

“We depend on highways, railways and waterways to ship food, fuel and fiber not only within the United States, but worldwide,” he said. “To remain competitive internationally, we must take care of our transportation infrastructure.”

KFB is a member of the Kentucky Infrastructure Coalition, which is made up of a diverse group of leaders and organizations working together to support efforts to keep the state’s infrastructure viable and sustainable.

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