Modern Infrastructure to Enable Agriculture’s Expansion

 
Michigan agriculture has experienced impressive growth in recent years, and it’s on track for further expansion into the future. To handle this growth, our agriculture sector relies more heavily than ever on road, rail and water transportation infrastructure.
Michigan’s roads, highways and bridges are widely recognized as some of the most out-of-date in the nation. Not only does this pose safety risks for all drivers, it hampers the cost-effective movement of agricultural inputs and products, putting Michigan agriculture at a competitive disadvantage with other states. 
 
In addition, the expansion of rail and vessel transportation is critical to provide more certainty for agriculture and expand options for producers. For some products, rail and vessel transportation offers a cost savings over truck transportation.
 
Uncertainty has increased in all of these areas over recent years. Seasonal weight restrictions on farm trucks lasted well into the summer – a consequence of aging roads. With a record grain crop across much of the upper Midwest, as well as trains tied up moving crude oil and other products, rail transportation was hard to come by for Michigan grain producers. And because vessel transportation remains limited in some parts of our state, particularly along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, that option is not yet viable for many producers and agribusinesses.
 
The Agricultural Leaders of Michigan support efforts to fix Michigan’s outdated roads, highways and bridges; lend additional certainty to rail transportation options; and expand opportunity to ship products by barge along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore.
 
·         Michigan’s road system is badly in need of repair and upgrade. Many options and strategies have been discussed or pursued by the Michigan legislature and others. ALM encourages continued engagement toward a common-sense, bipartisan solution to fix Michigan roads in 2015.
 
·         Regarding rail transportation, ALM appreciates the work by members of the Michigan Congressional delegation, other members of Congress and the federal Surface Transportation Board to monitor rail transit and options for agriculture across the nation. Federal policymakers should continue their focus on balanced rail transportation to provide shipping options for agriculture, as well as other products.
 
·         Water transportation options can be strengthened by expanding barge access along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, a request for which is pending with the United States Coast Guard. With expanded access, agriculture would have an easier and more cost-competitive pathway to export markets, as well as a new pathway to import fertilizer and feed ingredients to meet production needs.  The U.S. Coast Guard should act to allow barge access along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, as far north as Muskegon.