The Very Important Post Almost Nobody Knows About

Relative anonymity aside, it’s an extremely important post for the nation’s commerce, very much including U.S. farmers, and the recently confirmed appointee to that post is a New Madrid, Mo., farmer/ginner, whose responsibilities will include oversight of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which has 37,000 civilian/soldier employees delivering engineering services to 130 countries worldwide.

R.D. James brings a wealth of experience to the position. In 1981, he was appointed by President Reagan to serve on the Mississippi River Commission, and since then has provided leadership of the organization that is charged with the ongoing development of plans to improve the condition of the Mississippi River, fosternavigation, promote commerce, and prevent destructive floods. In his new position, he will establish policy direction and provide supervision of the Department of the Army functions relating to all aspects of the Civil Works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Mississippi River has the third largest drainage basin in the world, exceeded in size only by the watersheds of the Amazon and Congo rivers. It drains 41 percent of the 48 contiguous states of the U.S. and is the main stem of a network of inland navigable waterways that form a system about 12,350 miles in length, not including the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway’s 1,173 miles. It is the most important waterway for shipment of goods ranging from grains to farm machinery, petroleum products, chemicals, building materials, resulting in many thousands of barge loads up and down the river.

James and his family have been leaders in agriculture in the Missouri Bootheel, says Missouri Farm Bureau Federation President Blake Hurst.  The importance of having someone leading the Corps who intimately understands Missouri agriculture cannot be overstated. Decisions of the Corps of Engineers have an enormous impact on our farms, homes, and our daily lives.”

James earned his degree in civil engineering at the University of Kentucky, and he and his family have had farming, ginning, and grain elevator operations in the Bootheel for decades.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “The inland waterways system is so important to our economy — nearly one billion tons of commodities are shipped on the system yearly. “R.D. James understands the importance of our inland waterways system. He has an impressive background and is the right person to address our nation’s water infrastructure needs.”

For an interesting history of the Mississippi River Commission,

Source: Hembree Brandon, Delta Farm Press

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