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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Farmers To Benefit From Upgrades On Mississippi River, But More Needed

Barges like these, seen on the Mississippi River at Bellevue, Iowa, carry grain to Louisiana where it is stored and then loaded onto ocean-going ships. The channel for those ships will be deepened, allowing for heavier loads.
Barges like these, seen on the Mississippi River at Bellevue, Iowa, carry grain to Louisiana where it is stored and then loaded onto ocean-going ships. The channel for those ships will be deepened, allowing for heavier loads.

Midwest grain will reach foreign markets faster thanks to a channel-deepening project in the Lower Mississippi River that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced will begin this year. 

While that’s one bit of good news for infrastructure, it doesn’t make it any more likely other projects will follow. 

A Senate committee passed an infrastructure bill last July with bipartisan support, but Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the finance committee, says funding it will be a heavy lift. 

“And both from Republican and Democrat leaders there doesn’t seem to be any support for raising the gas tax. So if you don’t raise the gas tax, then where do you go?”

Grassley says there’s a “grab bag” of ideas to raise some money, but not enough to pay for the $93-$110 billion package. 

Still, Grassley says that won’t have any impact on the effort to dig the channel downstream from Baton Rouge to a consistent depth of 50 feet. That money’s already been put aside. 

Mike Steenhoek of the Soy Transportation Coalition says the project will allow ocean-going ships to take on more Midwest grain in each load they pick up. 

“You can not only load current vessels heavier with more freight, but you can attract some of these larger vessels that are becoming more typical in the international ocean trade.”

Steenhoek says when the project is completed in five to six years it will help modernize the shipping system. But he adds that locks and dams upstream need attention, too.

“It’s always important when you think about supply chains, including the agricultural supply chain, as a chain and you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

Follow Amy on Twitter:@AgAmyinAmes

Copyright 2020 Harvest Public Media

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.