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Mississippi River dredging project enters final phase, to bring savings to farmers (video)

June 13, 2023   WGNO-TV

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD ) – How can making the Mississippi River deeper by five feet in south Louisiana make a difference? For farmers across the country, it could mean millions of dollars saved.


A dredging project from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico of just five feet means an additional 500 thousand bushels of grain can be put on ships headed around the world.


“The more efficient our transportation system is, the more that translates into business. We’re just going to get a better basis, a better price for our product. The cheaper that we can ship it overseas to the global market, then that’s going to make our product worth more,” said Garrett Marsh, a Tallulah farmer.


The project to deepen the lower portion of the river in Louisiana from 45 to 50 feet was given the green light in 2020 after talks between the Army Corp of Engineers, Louisiana, and other states who utilize the river.


The projected savings for farmers equals about 13 cents per bushel, bringing in about $450 million in revenue to American farmers. The project costs around $250 million in total. Louisiana’s portion is about $80 million, with farmers pitching in $2 million to show they are invested in this project.


“What that means is it’s going to increase the competitiveness of our industry compared to our friends in South America. So you’re reducing the cost, the transportation costs, of it getting from the U.S. to our ultimate customers all or all around the world,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.


With years of supply chain issues, agencies are hoping this will be a step toward addressing the problem.


“Because you’re deepening the lower stretch of the river, you’re saving costs, reducing costs out of that third leg. The ocean vessel is that which makes the overall transaction much more economical, makes us more competitive,” Steenhoek said.


The project has already started in the southern parts of the river. The next phase will reach from the Port of New Orleans to Baton Rouge.


“Sixty percent of the nation’s grains are exported down the river. We believe we can get to 70%. But to do that, we’ve got to go from 45 feet to 50 feet up here to Baton Rouge,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.


The final phase is expected to be wrapped up in 2025.