ISA's District 9 meeting centered around a tour of Lock

ISA's District 9 meeting centered around a tour of Lock and Dam No. 19 on the Mississippi River in Keokuk. (Photo: Kriss Nelson/Iowa Soybean Association).

ISA meeting highlights importance of river transportation and infrastructure

August 4, 2022 | Kriss Nelson

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer-members and directors convened on the Mighty Mississippi River to tour Lock and Dam No. 19 near Keokuk for the annual District 9 meeting.

“It is a great opportunity for all of us to get together and talk about the issues that are important to our farmers,” says Pat Swanson, District 9 board director from Ottumwa. “It is important to see a lock and dam and understand the infrastructure that transports soybeans and other commodities to our customers around the world.” 

ISA board members Tom Adam, District 9 director from Harper, and Warren Bachman, District 8 director from Osceola, joined Swanson, providing updates to attendees on what is going on behind the scenes at ISA.

Ken Perkins of Bonaparte in Van Buren County says he tries to attend as many ISA district meetings as possible, where he takes the opportunity to visit with ISA directors and other farmers.

“I appreciate the Iowa Soybean Association for putting these types of meetings on,” he says. “You have to get involved. This is a grassroots organization, and if you don’t tell them what you want, they don’t know. You have to communicate, get out and be an ambassador.”

Lock and Dam No. 19

Lock and Dam No. 19 is located near Keokuk on the Upper Mississippi River.

In 2004, the facility was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lock is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dam is owned and operated by Ameren Missouri.

The current lock was put into operation for $13.5 million in 1957. This lock replaced one used from 1910-1913 and measured 110 feet wide, 258 feet long and 57 feet tall with a 40-foot lift.

The main lock was constructed from 1952-1957 and is 12,000 feet long and 110 feet wide with a lift of more than 38 feet, large enough to handle a full-length fleet of barges, equivalent to 15 barge tows.

Jim Knight, Lock and Dam 19 lockmaster says most of the tows that come through are 15 barge tows. Lock and Dam 19 is large enough that they can come as one complete unit without being broken down, increasing the efficiency and speed of soy transportation on the river.

After WWII, improvements began by converting the 25-cycle generators to 60-cycle generators. This conversion was completed in 2002.

Electronic automation replacement for some of the mechanical systems began in the 1980s. Ameren Missouri, started replacing and converting the original 1913 turbines with more efficient stainless-steel turbines.

Today, Keokuk Energy Center remains the largest, privately owned and operated dam on the Mississippi River.

Knight says they will see eight to 10 operations in a 24-hour period which will contain soybeans, coal, grain, fertilizer and petroleum products such as asphalt material.

“The main purpose of this particular lock is to move commodities from New Orleans to St. Paul,” he says. “Some don’t go that far and turn at Ft. Madison.”

One barge equals 15 train jumbo hoppers and 58 semi loads. That equals 2 ½ unit trains and 870 semi loads of material in one full-length fleet of barges.

Economics and safety are some of the main benefits of using the Mississippi River to transport commodities.

“There are 870 fewer semis you’re going to meet between St. Paul and New Orleans on the highways,” says Knight. “And this highway rebuilds itself every day with new water.”

Perkins says the tour broadened his perspective of the work he does every day.

“It was a great tour to see how the lock systems work,” says Perkins. “Selling crop insurance in four states, I realize how living next to the river is important to the market and basis.”

District meetings series

There are two opportunities left to join your fellow farmers and hear from ISA staff and board members about what’s happening in the soybean industry.

District 3:

 Aug. 8, 6 p.m. at the Hurling Hatchet in Cedar Falls. There will be ax throwing, dinner, and a short program.

District 5:

 Aug. 17, 4 p.m. at the Iowa State Fair. There will be a short program along with ice cream sundaes. Tickets and meal vouchers are provided to attendees.

RSVP here for the district meetings you plan to attend. Contact the producer services team for more information about the 2022 district meetings.