Harvest Highlights Illinois’ Critical Infrastructure Issues

Doug SchroederHow many farmers approach harvest with a little apprehension about safely managing trucks and machinery on our state’s questionable-condition roads and bridges? I am guessing most of us.

That’s why the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) places a high priority on investing checkoff dollars in beefing up the state’s transportation infrastructure. ISA funds projects and partnerships that generate awareness of the value of road, bridge, rail and river systems to agriculture. The hope is that such infrastructure can be refurbished and optimized. Remaining globally competitive requires us to ensure Illinois soy reaches its intended destinations efficiently.

Efficient delivery begins on our farms with well-maintained equipment and an eye on safety. This is a good time of year to check equipment for proper protective structures, for example, and make sure lights work. On a personal note, we need to take breaks, eat nutritious meals and get adequate sleep so we are alert and drive with care when headed out onto township roads.

Attention to the road is critical. Drivers aren’t necessarily looking out for us and we inevitably must deal with blocked visibilities, potholes and narrow, winding gravel road stretches.

We probably all deal with poor-condition bridges, too. Illinois is home to 26,775 bridges, the third largest bridge inventory in the nation. Yet nearly 10 percent of these bridges are structurally deficient – and likely near your farm. ISA is working on a solution known as “bridge bundling” which has worked to make repairs in other states. Read about the effort in this issue.

One bright spot for Illinois infrastructure is our location – we have a unique system connecting trucks to containers, rail and rivers. Overseas buyers seeking non-GMO, food grade soybeans routinely make their purchases from Illinois, which gives the state’s farmers a value-added edge. This issue features an article about work to continue to build this market for Illinois farmers.

And while not a traditional infrastructure challenge, rural broadband access is a concern ISA is more closely monitoring. COVID-19 has made abundantly clear the inadequacies of slow-speed Internet and the impact lack of service have on both rural education and healthcare. Find out more about what is being done in Illinois to improve connectivity around the state.

As we prepare to harvest an abundant soybean crop, we need to do what we can via our infrastructure to enhance soybean quality and sustainability, beat the competition and keep our reputation for exemplary customer service and reliability. From farmer to buyer, ISA connects the supply chain dots and addressing infrastructure needs is a major part of that effort.

Have a safe and productive harvest. And watch your mailbox in November for a return to the Illinois Field & Bean title with more farmer-facing articles to drive your business into 2021!