According to studies by both the Illinois Soybean Association and the National Bridge Index, Illinois roads and highways are facing record levels of disrepair. Roads, particularly rural roads, are the backbone of the agricultural sector. The ability to quickly and efficiently transport goods and products to and from markets often makes the difference between profitability and bankruptcy.
In Illinois in particular, rural roads are the keys to a successful agricultural industry. Over 70 percent of the state’s roads are rural. However, recent studies have demonstrated that this rural road network is badly obsolete and can no longer service the agricultural sector. These crumbling roads can halt farm traffic and add significant costs to farmers trying to ship their products.
Approximately fifteen percent of Illinois bridges are obsolete or in need of repair. 3,000 of Illinois’s 26,000 bridges are structurally deficient, meaning that they often cannot bear the weight of farm trucks and vehicles. The end result of these deficient roads is that farmers are forced to use elevators and take roundabout roads rather than more direct bridge crossings.
Nor is this transportation problem unique to Illinois. Across the country, infrastructure is obsolete and falling into disrepair, costing farmers significant amounts of money. In addition, damage to the agricultural sector can quickly reverberate on the larger job market, given the deep connections between a healthy farm sector and adequate local employment.
While American roads crumble, Congress is currently debating slashing $2 trillion from the federal budget, much of it potentially coming from the agricultural sector. As budget cuts combine with high fuel costs and a collapsing national infrastructure, farmers across the country can expect hard times ahead.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer