AFBF urges presidential declaration for Mississippi River

December 5, 2012
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WASHINGTON — The American Farm Bureau Federation has urged President Barack Obama to issue a presidential declaration of emergency for the Mississippi River.

In a letter to the president and top administration officials, AFBF, and nearly 20 other national organizations, said there could be an economic catastrophe in America’s heartland as soon as mid-December if the administration does not take emergency action to ensure that water levels do not fall below the level needed to support commercial navigation.

Because of this year’s severe drought, waterborne commerce on the middle Mississippi River is in danger, especially now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun to implement plans to reduce the release of water to the river from dams on the upper Missouri River.

“The Mississippi River is a critical national transportation artery, on which hundreds of millions of tons of essential commodities are shipped . . .” stated the letter. “Substantial curtailment of navigation will effectively sever the country’s inland waterway superhighway, imperil the shipment of critical cargo for domestic consumption and for export, threaten manufacturing industries and power generation and risk thousands of related jobs in the Midwest.”

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However, members of Congress from South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas and Montana have also sent a letter to the president urging him to deny requests to declare a state of economic emergency on the Mississippi River and release water from the Missouri River’s dams and reservoirs.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said, “Communities along the Missouri have already been hit hard by the drought. These communities rely on the Missouri as a water source, and according to the Corps of Engineers, water levels on the Missouri are already 20 percent below the normal drought levels for the season.”

Aside from seeking an emergency declaration, the AFBF and other groups requested that President Obama direct the Corp to immediately remove the rock pinnacles along the river and release enough water from the Missouri River reservoirs to preserve a nine-foot navigation channel on the Mississippi River.

Attached to the joint letter were letters from the governors of Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, 15 U.S. Senators, and 62 U.S. House members urging prompt federal action on Mississippi River navigation.

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