Locks and dams modernization is ADM’s infrastructure priority | TheFencePost.com

Locks and dams modernization is ADM’s infrastructure priority

ADM loads a ship at its state-of-the-art facility in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS — Archer Daniels Midland's highest priority in any infrastructure package that Congress and the Trump administration develops would be modernization of the Mississippi River locks and dams that feed ADM's state-of-the-art facility here, executives said after a tour.

"This is the end of the pipe, but you have to have work done at the beginning of the pipe so it can go out," said Kevin Van Meter, the director of northbound sales for American River Transportation Co., ADM's domestic shipping subsidiary.

Van Meter also noted that transportation is important both ways on the river so that farmers can get both domestic and imported fertilizer in and get their products out.

Other organizations are emphasizing the need for improvements to facilities like the Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana, but Van Meter said that a lot of work was done after Hurricane Katrina to modernize the ports that ADM uses.

ADM's port facilities are impressively modern and up to date, with grains and other goods moving efficiently and seamlessly from barges that come down the Mississippi to New Orleans.

Jason Porter, the vice president of operations for American River Transportation in New Orleans, said that while the flow of traffic from upriver to export is good because ADM does not rely on third parties or government facilities, there are delays "upriver" due to maintenance issues.

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Porter said the Army Corps of Engineers has to dredge when problems and accidents occur but can't afford to do preemptive dredging because its budget is too small.

Barges are the most efficient way to transport goods for export, Porter added, but said he wonders how different the industry would be if the locks and dams were modernized.

Bryan Dierlam, the director of government relations for ADM in Washington, noted that barge transportation is efficient, referring to a Waterways Council chart that shows "a 15-barge tow equals 1,050 trucks or 216 railcars."

Even though the talk about a Trump administration infrastructure proposal has gone on for nearly a year and had its ups and downs, modernizing the locks and dams is "still a priority" for ADM, Dierlam said.