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Ag Group Watching State of the Union with Infrastructure in Mind

Kristofor Husted
file: Harvest Public Media
Soybeans are loaded onto a barge for river transport during the 2015 harvest.

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union Address Tuesday and the nation’s roads, bridges, rails and rivers will be on many people’s minds in the Midwest.

Trump has said he’s committed to improving the country’s infrastructure and now Mike Steenhoek, director of the Soy Transportation Coalition in Ankeny, wants to hear some specifics. Steenhoek says it’s an issue that cuts across many industries and speaks to people in all corners of the country.

“We need to have a system that really works for all of the U.S., urban and rural,” he says, “and I think that we have a real opportunity to do that this year.”

Steenhoek has a list of his top 10 priority projects, including long overdue repairs and improvements to the locks and dams on the Mississippi River. He says the list isn’t about trying to fund the most expensive projects. While additional funding for infrastructure is important, Steenhoek says more efficiency in the process of executing federally-funded projects is just as important. 

“On the farm, (farmers) make due with less, they make their dollars stretch farther. They get more bang for their buck,” Steenhoek says, “and I think it’s appropriate for an organization that’s funded by and led by farmers to demand that kind of behavior of our federal government.” 

I would rather the federal government be predictably good than sporadically great. -Mike Steenhoek

Trump’s background in construction gives him an understanding of how much transportation matters, Steenhoek says. But thus far, there’s been more rhetoric than action from his administration.

In the State of the Union, Steenhoek says he’ll be listening for specifics.

“I would rather the federal government be predictably good than sporadically great,” Steenhoek says. “It doesn’t do a whole lot of good for the federal government to be inattentive on transportation, negligent on transportation one day, and then just be absolutely inspired on day two and then it goes back to negligent on day three.”

Steenhoek says many projects run over budget and suffer long delays because funding is doled out—or not—on a yearly basis, instead of for an entire project.