Dredging Project on Mississippi R. Could Give Soybean Farmers $461M Boost
A large-scale project called the Mississippi River Ship Channel Dredging Project is currently underway to dredge the lower 250-mile stretch of the Mississippi, and the U.S. soybean industry is optimistic that a massive financial boost awaits at a depth of 50 feet.
Currently, most ships loading soybeans at ports along the mouth of the Mississippi are restricted to a maximum of 2.4 million bushels - any more would cause a ship to ground in the riverbed. Dredging only an extra five feet would raise this limit to 2.9 million bushels, at a marginal increase in transportation costs, and dredging the lower Mississippi from 45 feet to 50 feet could generate an additional $461 million per year for the U.S. soybean industry - proceeds that are not connected to supply and demand, and based solely on greater efficiency in transportation.
The project, which began in 2020, is scheduled to be completed in 2022 at a cost of approximately $270 million, and is expected to return $7.20 for every $1 spent in its construction and maintenance, according to the Corps of Engineers. And once the 256-mile dredge is completed -- increasing the river depth from 45 to 50 feet from the Gulf to Baton Rouge -- the change will translate into a massive shift in soybean economics, equating to 100,000 bushels for each added foot of depth.