November 23, 2017

AUDIO – Rough Patch in Funding for Rural Roads Is One Example of Infrastructure Needs for American Agriculture

The annual Conference and Expo for the North Dakota Association of Counties took place at the Bismarck Event Center this week.

Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, on Tuesday afternoon took part in a panel discussion titled, “Transportation Financing: What is the Future of Road Funding.”

The NDAC says, after six years of much needed, and very significant, “onetime” road funding, the NDDOT and counties are facing the reality that dedicated highway funds alone are woefully inadequate to meet the maintenance and construction needs of our integrated highway system.

North Dakota is not alone in this reality, and many other states have started to expand existing revenue sources and implementing new solutions.

Amid oil income in the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions, lawmakers gave $10,000 to each of the non-oil producing townships to help them with road maintenance. The 2017 Legislature again included the appropriation, but Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed that section of the bill.

Steenhoek told us that the session helped to quantify the situation for local officials, and then explored some of the options that should possibly be under consideration for North Dakota’s future.

Listen –>  NDAC 1

Rural roads serve an important function for agriculture, and farmers rely on adequate infrastructure to compete in the global markets. While U.S. grain traders and farmers await details on President Trump’s proposed infrastructure upgrades,  recent reports indicate that China plans to spend $1.4 trillion on infrastructure upgrades, while Brazil may spend $14 billion to upgrade its grain transportation network.

Listen –>   NDAC 2 .

After the recent closure of Lock 53 a couple of weeks ago, a vulnerability was exposed in the grain transportation network at a critical time during the harvest season. The closure was the latest headache for shippers scrambling to haul newly harvested soybeans from Midwest farms to export terminals along the Gulf Coast.

Listen –>  NDAC 3

The Mississippi River and its tributaries are a key pipeline for moving grain to export markets. Around 60 percent of all U.S. corn, soybean and wheat exports exit the country via the Gulf Coast.