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Mid-South agriculture could be adversely affected by federal budget cuts that would reduce funding for maintenance and improvements to the rivers, streams, and lakes under control of the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the Mississippi River Valley. Whether it’s grain moving through river terminals to export, or gasoline/diesel coming in, or thousands of products that rely on the waterway system for efficient transport of bulk goods, the impact could be far-reaching and more costly, members of the Mississippi River Commission were told at a Greenville, Miss. hearing.
Economy would be devastated
“There aren’t enough trucks in the U.S. to handle that kind of volume," James said. "The economy of the entire Mississippi River Valley would be devastated and the economy of the nation would be impacted.
“If we have to light load barges, the basis on grains will go up and that will be passed on to the farmer. It will be money right out of the farmer’s pocket. The average person just doesn’t realize how important this waterway infrastructure is.”
Richard Brontoli, executive director of the four-state Red River Valley Association, Shreveport, La., said “We are rallying our industries to inform Congress of the issues involved with this vital transportation system.
“If we can’t dredge and maintain these waterways, we’re going to see additional costs throughout the system. If we lose this transportation system and are forced to go to alternate methods, thousands of jobs will be jeopardized and our economy will be adversely affected.
“If waterways are closed companies will not relocate to other parts of the country — they will move overseas,” Brontoli said. ‘If we don’t invest now, there will be a negative impact on our ability to compete in the world market, threatening our national security.”
Globalization “has harmed us tremendously,” said Frank Hash, mayor, El Dorado, Ark. “We’ve lost a lot of light and medium industries.”
He said El Dorado approved taxes to build an $18 million conference center “to capitalize on what this area offers in wildlife and recreation. We’re unique, and we’ve got skin in the game. These waterway systems are vital to our future.”
Cindy Smith, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, noted that “our region’s water systems are also important to tourism.
“As towns have gotten smaller and agriculture has become larger, tourism and agritourism have become important to the rural economy. We depend on these precious water resources, and we urge you to keep tourism in the forefront of what you do.”
“My country and my government are broke,” said Dolly Marascalco, Grenada Lake Development Commission, Grenada, Miss.
“With all these budget cuts, the progress and improvements that have been made at the large Mississippi flood control lakes are at risk. We have thousands of visitors yearly at Grenada Lake for recreation and special events and we’re worried. How do we keep all this maintained for the public? Where do we go from here?”
Janie Mortimer, executive director of the Tate County, Miss., Development Association, noted that Arkabutla, the northernmost of the Mississippi flood control lakes, generates a $33 million yearly economic impact from tourism and recreation.
“These budget cuts will mean a reduction in vital services and perhaps partial closures of campgrounds and facilities,” she said.