Nov 19, 2021
By Willard Jack • ASA Director
Transportation infrastructure in Mississippi has been an issue for farmers and truckers like me for the last several years. There are 10,757 bridges on local roads and 426 are marked closed. Throughout the state, of the total 17,022 bridges, 2,153 are deemed structurally deficient and marked low weight. Some of these bridges are made of wood and well past their useful life span. Some have been damaged by floods and others by accident.
It is not unusual to travel 5 to 10 miles off route to avoid a low-weight bridge. What is even more concerning is the damage our trucks and equipment sustain by taking these detours on deteriorated county roads.
The American Soybean Association has advocated for more federal resources to help states like Mississippi improve rural roads and bridges. Aging infrastructure is not only a safety hazard but also an economic issue. A rough road that slows trucks or causes damage to their tires and suspension increases the cost of transporting the goods to market, which ultimately increases the costs for end-users and consumers.
ASA has also advocated for increased truck weights in the state of Mississippi, where we have 80,000-pound and 56,000-pound load limit highways. Obviously, our heavy trucks of soybeans heading to market can only travel the 80,000-pound roads, which means yet another detour. In Mississippi, you can buy a $50 yearly harvest permit that allows you to load to 84,000 pounds when leaving the field or a place without a scale. Starting in 2023, with a permit we will be able to load up to 88,000 pounds. Just going from 84,000 pounds to an 88,000-pound load limit will allow us to haul fewer loads of soybeans to market, meaning the truck will be on the road less. This in turn means less fuel, fewer man hours and fewer detours.
Deepening the Mississippi from Baton Rouge south is another policy priority of ASA’s, and we’ve already seen progress on this front. All of the beans from my farm go to the Mississippi and are loaded on a barge heading to Baton Rouge to be loaded on a boat. It will save us $.10 a bushel if we can load the boat to the same depth as the Panama Canal.
These issues in our region may be similar to issues in your region – or you may have other examples. Regardless, we are pleased to see infrastructure and transportation have their day in the sun and look forward to improved systems in Mississippi and elsewhere in our country to keep soy “on the go.”