Longevity and success in any endeavor depend on careful analysis, foresight, a solid plan and disciplined execution. With transportation infrastructure, the high cost of long-term projects demands that assumptions are right at each stage. Those assumptions must allow for growth and be flexible enough to accommodate improvements in the future.
The infrastructure of this great country is a prime example of a well-designed system that has historically served business, industry, states and cities. It is the underpinning that supports the success of the services and facilities necessary for our economy to flourish. However, in recent years there is growing concern (and proof) that parts of our aging infrastructure present considerable challenges.
Transportation directly impacts agriculture. Few industries are as reliant as agriculture on the nation’s highways, rail system and waterways. The strength of these transportation modes has been one reason agriculture enjoys a competitive advantage over the rest of the world. In particular, our highways and waterways need upgrades if that advantage is to continue.
This concern is heightened when you consider the increased productivity innovation and technology have brought to your operations—crop, livestock, dairy, poultry and others. While we’ve enjoyed moderate growth in U.S. consumption of these products, it appears we need even more growth in exports. That means more product will need to move on rail, highways and waterways.
In addition to transportation, agriculture is impacted by more changes in technology. Global positioning systems and other wireless technologies create the need for improved infrastructure to provide dependable communication networks. Agriculture needs connectivity to increase efficiencies and remain competitive.
Our elected officials recognize the need for improvements. However, funding is often held hostage to partisan battles over taxes. With a new administration in Washington comes new optimism. When our newly elected president was campaigning, he shared his vision to “implement a bold, visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways, and pipelines in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who championed the interstate highway system.”
It’s a statement we all want to hear, but our roads, bridges, waterways and broadband networks need action—now.
As I see it, infrastructure doesn’t start and end with these areas. MFA has a responsibility just as each of you do. The infrastructure we manage may be somewhat different, but it contributes to the movement of agricultural products. More importantly, combined we are a major economic impact in many of the communities in which we do business.
On average, MFA annually invests more than $60 million on new facilities and upgrades to existing facilities. “Our” dependable infrastructure is critical to the efficient movement of crop and livestock inputs as well as grain received and later marketed. We recognize that many of your operations are getting bigger and your equipment is capable of getting things done faster. We have to keep pace.
The MFA Rail Facility being constructed near Hamilton, Mo., will position MFA to potentially reduce truck traffic by as much as 14 million bushels of grain annually. It will also create efficiencies in many of our feeder elevators in this area.
Even with recent challenges in agriculture, we have not backed away from our responsibility to maintain infrastructure. Agriculture is recognized as the No. 1 industry in all five states where MFA operates. While agriculture may not be the largest employer in all of these rural areas, in many places it is the economic driver because it is so capital intensive. Agriculture’s footprint extends beyond the jobs it creates.
MFA is only a small part of the infrastructure that forms the backbone of this country. Every family, every community and every business needs a solid, dependable infrastructure to thrive. The vitality of your operations and our rural communities depend on it.