North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring: Improve rural roads
BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said a new study shows that significant funding is needed to repair and upgrade rural North Dakota roads to meet current and future needs.
“We are growing and moving more crops than ever before and that is having a major impact on our already stressed rural road network,” Goehring said Monday, Jan. 10. “Yet funding in real dollars for county and local roads has grown only modestly in recent years, while construction costs have soared.”
The study, “Road Investment Needs to Support Agricultural Logistics and Economic Development in North Dakota,” was released Jan. 10, 2011 by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI). The North Dakota Corn Utilization Council, North Dakota Soybean Council, North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, North Dakota Ethanol Council, North Dakota Association of Counties and North Dakota Wheat Commission funded the study.
“The study estimates that $210.5 million is needed annually for county and local paved and unpaved roads,” he said. “Of that total more than $100 million relates to agriculture haul roads.”
Goehring emphasized that the study takes into account the funds needed for roads in oil country, as detailed in another UPGTI study released last week.
“We support both that study and the appropriation for roads for oil and gas development, which will also benefit agriculture,” he said. “This study deals with agricultural needs across the entire state.”
In addition to greatly increased crop production, Goehring said rural roads usage is being increased by a 33 percent decline in the number of elevators in the state, an increase in the number of processing plants in the state and a reduction of railroad trackage.
“Even the type of vehicles is having an impact,” he said. “We’re not talking about single tandem axle trucks anymore; most grain is now moving by semi-truck.”
Goehring said it is important that North Dakota meet these needs.
“Agriculture is still our most important economic engine, and it promises to be even more important as crop yields and agricultural processing increase,” he said. “Good roads are necessary for this to happen.”
Many livestock producers are utilizing stockpiled pasture, hay regrowth and warm- or cool-season annuals to extend the grazing season this fall.