Economists find Missouri River barging has few economic benefitsDecember 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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