Sunday, September 5, 2010

Guest Post: How the Asian Carp Problem Could Affect Illinois Farmers

NOTE: Following this two minute National Wildlife Federation video explaining the Asian carp problem, is a guest post submission by Philip Nelson, who is the President of the Illinois Farm Bureau, and a member of As with every story, there are vested interests on opposing sides differing on how to address the problem. Mr. Nelson represents the Illinois farmers and corn growers who rely upon the waterway for exporting grains. It is estimated that closing the locks could cost the corn industry 567 million dollars per year.

In another study, it was estimated that closing the locks could cost the regional economy 4.7 billion dollars. Approximately 16 billion dollars in commodities travels through the waterway annually including grains, chemicals and steel.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania want to temporarily close the O'Brien and Chicago locks and install barriers to stop the fish. On this opposing side, is a $7 billion-a-year fishing industry.

On September 3, it was announced that the Chicago Canal will be temporarily closed for the installation of underwater electric structures.

I wish everyone involved the best of luck in dealing with this problem.

Philip Nelson's Guest Post: Damaged habitats and crowded waterways are very real, serious problems caused by Asian carp. Yet proposed closure of the Chicago locks or a permanent hydrological separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River corridor is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Despite their best intentions, those who support full lock closure are oversimplifying its ability to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan full stop. Closing the locks would block the $29 billion worth of commodities that travel through the Chicago Area Waterway System annually. While proponents argue this is a simple answer to possibly controlling the carp population, this solution absolutely increases costs and delays at a time when the Midwest desperately needs economic growth, not crippling costs. Like links in a chain, America’s waterway systems are an interdependent network. Closing one portion will have rippling consequences down the line in the forms of increased costs and transportation limitations. Recent research shows that closing the locks will not simply nudge prices higher, but instead annihilate the Illinois and Great Lakes agricultural communities with shipping increases of more than a half-billion dollars a year. As I recently highlighted in an op-ed published in the Peoria Journal Star, Springfield’s State Journal Register, Champaign News-Gazette, Bloomington Pantagraph and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Illinois farmers depend on a vital waterway transportation system to feed the people of their state, America, and the global market. The Unlock Our Jobs coalition reminds us that this is not a distant problem for the rest of us either, detailing the expected damage throughout states in the Great Lakes, Midwest and Mississippi River valley. Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agree that closing the locks will not reduce the risk of Asian carp spreading. We need a comprehensive, thoughtful solution that will stop Asian carp from creating self-sustaining populations in the Great Lakes without bringing our local economies to a screeching standstill. With options on the table that will more effectively address the risks posed by Asian carp, we need to be careful not to cut off the nose to spite the face.