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Lower Snake River Dam Proposal Dangerous for Agriculture

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 30, 2024 — In written testimony submitted today to the House Energy and Commerce Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) expressed the concerns of the agricultural industry regarding a settlement deal between the Biden administration, state governments, and environmental groups to study and potentially implement future removal of the Lower Snake River dams.

“We are deeply concerned with the settlement agreement between the White House, several of the tribal governments, and NGOs in the Pacific Northwest, as its implementation will have devastating impacts on U.S. farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses throughout the United States,” noted NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert in the testimony. “Removing the Lower Snake River dams will hurt producers and negatively impact the operations and livelihoods of NGFA members and their employees who have made investment decisions based on the ability to utilize barge transportation.”

The Biden administration on Dec. 14 announced a $1 billion plan with environmental groups, four tribal governments and the states of Washington and Oregon meant to address salmon declines in the Columbia and Snake River system. The settlement deal proposes that the administration help fund and conduct studies on “how the transportation, irrigation, and recreation services provided by the four Lower Snake River dams could be replaced, to help inform Congress should it consider authorizing dam breach in the future.”

Breaching the Lower Snake River dams would cause widespread economic and environmental damage and the NGFA has opposed any actions by federal or state governments that could result in breaching them. Barge transportation moves about half of all grain exports to export elevators and is critical to NGFA members in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia-Snake River System is the third-largest grain export corridor in the world, transporting nearly 30 percent of U.S. grain and oilseed exports. Notably, barges are the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation for grains and oilseeds with one four-barge tow moving as much grain as 140 rail cars or 538 semi-trucks. 

“Advocates of breaching the dams suggested barge traffic could be replaced by rail or truck transportation,” Seyfert continued. “The NGFA would like to clarify that the required alternative infrastructure capacity simply does not exist at this time, and it is highly unlikely that it could be created in an economically viable amount of time – if it can be developed at all.” 

Read NGFA’s written testimony here.

In a statement issued last week, NGFA endorsed legislation sponsored by Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore.; Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho; and Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., that would prevent federal funds from being used to study dam breaching.

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