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Economists find Missouri River barging has few economic benefits
December 1999
U.S. Water News Online

WASHINGTON -- A report by the leading agricultural transportation economists in Kansas and Nebraska has found that commercial barging on the Missouri River provides only miniscule economic benefits to the four states served by the river and does not result in lower railroad rates for the grain produced by the region's farmers.
The economic benefits to agriculture of barging on the Missouri River is a major issue in an ongoing review by the US Army Corps of Engineers of how to reform water management on the Missouri River.

The report, "Does Barging on the Missouri River Provide Significant Benefits? A Report by the Region's Leading Agricultural Transportation Economists," supports the argument that decreased navigation would permit water management to benefit the environment.

"I know farm groups have expressed concern that decreased support for barging could lead to higher railroad rates for grain," said Dr. Michael Babcock, Professor of Economics at Kansas State University and a report author. "But the facts show that barging carries only one quarter of one percent of the grain produced in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, and it would carry far more if it truly provided competition for rail rates."
"The Missouri River is a shallow, narrow, swift and winding river that makes barging expensive so it cannot compete with railroads," said Dr. Dale Anderson, Professor of Agricultural Economics (emeritus) at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and a report author.

"The best use of the Missouri River for agriculture may be to use it not for barges but as a source of water to float barges on the Mississippi River, which is important to agriculture," said Dr. Babcock.

"De-emphasizing navigation would permit the Army Corps to manage the river better for endangered fish and wildlife and to restore the Missouri River for the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark as a great recreational resource," said Environmental Defense Fund attorney Tim Searchinger.
"Along with Dr. Philip Baumel of Iowa State, who previously came to the same conclusion, Dr. Babcock and Dr. Anderson are the experts on agricultural transportation in the region, and we hope that the agricultural community and the Army Corps of Engineers will be interested in their views," said Searchinger.

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It would great to see a major river finally managed, or really un-managed, for a natural resource reason that is not completely economically driven. I would like to see an economic report on the barging on the Mississippi, for comparison.

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Of the total commodity tonnage shipped on the Missouri River between 1994 and 2006, 83 percent (100,183,464 tons) originated and/or terminated in the state of Missouri. For the other states served by navigation on the Missouri River, Kansas accounted for 12 percent (14,171,543 tons), Nebraska accounted for 3 percent (3,279,355), and Iowa accounted for 2 percent (2,578,890) of the tonnage transported. Tonnage shipped per year over the 13-year period has ranged between 6.9 million and 9.7 million tons.
The majority of the shipments on the Missouri River during this period were of sand and gravel, which accounted for 84 percent (about 91.3 million tons) of the total tonnage shipped. Of this amount, approximately 54 percent of the sand and gravel was transported 1 mile or less, 31 percent between 2 and 9 miles, and 14 percent was transported 10 miles or more. (page 3, 5-15)

Basically, it's pointless for the entire lower Missouri River to be partly managed for shipping gravel a few miles here and there in the state of Missouri.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Barging on the Mo. River generates 3 million dollars annually folks. How much in Tax payer revenues does the COE get from congress to manage and maintain a navigational channel on the Mo. River?

Can you say according to them 6.5 million a year? That's twice the amount that the industry generates and 95% of that is in the state of Mo. why IA & NE obtain very little benefit from navigation itself.

How feet in River rise in a flood event does Navigational revetments contribute to overall flood depth?

Can you say 10 to 15 feet.

How much does Navigational channel degradation cost tax payers?

100's of million dollars.

How much damage was done by the flood because of the narrowing of the river and being cut off from it's traditional sloughs and oxbows?
Over 200 million dollars.

Now can anyone do the math here and figure out exactly what the true cost of Managing the Mo. River for navigation is costing TAX PAYERS?

Lets not forget the Billions of tax payer revenues spent in trying to develop the Mo. River for navigation as some would find on the Big Mississippi.

Can anyone say INSANITY?

Recreational opportunities and development produces 10x the economic impact as the navigational industry on the Mo. River in the reaches of Iowa & Nebraska. This mind you is with very little investment in the region.

How much in Federal Crop insurance claims have we spent in the basin over the past 20 years addressing crop loss due to flooding? This could get really scarry. LMAO
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