Yes, that’s a very obvious reference to a classic novel written by Norman Maclean. However, there’s a literal reason for it being the title of this post. Rivers are a major source of transport, commerce, and culture. As far as agriculture goes, a river runs through it. Without a complex and well-maintained river and channel system, America’s farmers are in a pickle. Everyone else in America, and millions of people outside of it, would also be in a bit of a pickle.
The Mississippi River is the lifeblood of the Midwest. It’s the primary connection between the Midwest – corn country – and the rest of the world.
So, why is this timely? Why this blog post, and why now?
Currently, the locks and dams that maintain the Mississippi River are in near of work. Designed to handle riverboats back in the days of Tom Sawyer, these structures are unable to deal with the strain put on them by large barges. Some environmental groups are entreating legislators to leave them as be; however, without maintenance, and ultimately an upgrade, the river will be compromised as a major means of transportion.
If the river can no longer support large barges, it can no longer transport grain. Without the Mississippi to move the grain from the Midwest, access to the Atlantic is limited. This means that the rest of the world will not be able to get these valuable resources in a timely fashion, if at all.
Look at it from the perspective of emissions. Without barges, grain transport would rely heavily on rail and road. Both trains and trucks emit significantly higher rates of air pollution. These alternatives also use a much higher rate of fuel per ton per mile.
The Mississippi River is incredibly valuable to the livelihood of the Midwest, for several reasons. These locks and dams need to be properly updated. Without the right systems in place, agriculture in the Midwest, as well as food distribution to the entire world, will suffer.