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NGFA Warns About Plans to
Breach Snake River Dams

by Chris Clayton
Progressive Farmer, December 18, 2023

The dams support about 100 million bushels of wheat exports out of the Pacific Northwest.

Graphic: Shipping wheat on the federally-subsidized Lower Snake River has declined over recent years.  More of this grain is being shipped by rail, a mode of transportation that has been more effecient than by barge for over a quarter century (see 29th ed. Transportation Energy Data) The National Grain and Feed Association on Friday raised concerns that a $1 billion conservation plan and settlement from the Biden administration to deal with salmon in the Columbia and Snake River system is an eventual setup to remove four navigational dams on the Lower Snake River.

The $1 billion, provided in a court settlement with Oregon and Washington tribes, will be used to look at how to deal with the loss of hydropower and navigation on the river system should Congress ever make the call to remove the dams.

The four dams -- Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Monumental -- are upriver from the convergence of the Snake and Columbia rivers at Richland, Washington. The dams provide roughly 3,000 megawatts of hydropower, as well as support shipments from 13 grain elevators along the Snake River. The dams support about 100 million bushels of wheat exports out of the Pacific Northwest.

For farmers, the dams typically provide 40 cents to 60 cents of positive basis on wheat.

But the dams are considered as a key reason for the decline of salmon runs, which are threatening the salmon and violating agreements between the federal government and tribes to protect the fishing rights.

The National Grain and Feed Association declared its opposition to the Columbia-Snake conservation plan or any proposal to breach the dams. The group pointed to the ripple effects and impacts on grain exports.

"Barges are the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation for grains and oilseeds with one four-barge tow moving as much grain as 140 rail cars or 538 semi-trucks," NGFA stated. "Removing the Lower Snake River dams would hurt producers and negatively impact the operations and livelihoods of NGFA members and their employees who have made investment decisions based on the ability to utilize barge transportation. Studies have been completed that show the significant, negative impact that would occur in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the impact on agriculture in the PNW and throughout much of the western and northern United States, reduced exports could also impact global food security."

Video: Nicole Berg talks about agriculture and the Snake River

Chris Clayton
NGFA Warns About Plans to Breach Snake River Dams
Progressive Farmer, December 18, 2023

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