Ag Groups Urge Senate Passage of WRDA

The Senate is considering S. 601 - the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. Several agricultural groups joined together in writing a letter to members of the Senate to stress the importance of the legislation's passage. According to the groups - passage of WRDA would authorize new projects for flood protection, port improvements and upgrades to the nation's aging locks and dams infrastructure. They say it would also improve U.S. transportation capacity, relieve growing congestion on U.S. highways and foster a more competitive transportation system. The letter stated that America's inland waterways and ports have long provided U.S. farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses with a strong comparative advantage - enhancing our ability to efficiently and competitively serve domestic and global markets - as well as secure essential crop inputs for production of grains, oilseeds and other agricultural commodities. Further - the letter points out that inland waterway transportation is the lowest cost and most environmentally sustainable transportation mode. The groups write that inland waterway transportation costs are two to three times less than other modes - translating into an annual savings of seven-billion dollars.

Ninety-five percent of U.S. ag exports and imports are transported through U.S. harbors. These exports and navigation activity support more than 400-thousand jobs. But the letter from agricultural groups notes that 57-percent of the locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River System were built in the 1930s with a projected 50-year lifespan and need modernization and expansion. Twenty-six percent of those locks - the letter continues - are more than 70 years old.

The American Farm Bureau Federation - one of the groups signing the letter - says passage of WRDA is essential to the nation's economic growth. Farm Bureau is also urging the addition of two provisions during Senate floor consideration: that remaining costs for the completion of the Olmsted lock and dam on the Ohio River be financed through federal funding and that the Senate adopt the increase in the barge diesel fuel user fee. The increase is supported by barge carriers and their customers - including agricultural shippers - and will provide the financial means to initiate and complete lock projects authorized by the WRDA measure.

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