WASHINGTON, DC, US — The US Senate on Aug. 10 passed the Investment and Jobs Act, which includes funds to modernize the country’s transportation system, including $17.3 billion for ports and waterways.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) praised lawmakers for passing the legislation, which targets infrastructure improvements that will aid all three modes of grain transportation.

“NGFA members rely on a robust and competitive transportation system, including US highways, bridges, inland waterways, ports and railways, to efficiently and competitively serve domestic and global markets,” said Mike Seyfert, president and chief executive officer of the NGFA. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will enhance the efficient and cost-effective transport of agricultural and food products resulting in substantial contributions and opportunities for US economic growth and trade.”

The bipartisan legislation would increase infrastructure spending by $550 billion over five years, including an additional $110 billion in US roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, and $17.3 billion for ports and waterways. The latter includes $2.5 billion specifically for inland waterways construction projects. 

For years, grain industry officials have been pleading with Congress to upgrade aging locks on the nation’s inland waterways, some of which are nearly a century old.

The US Department of Agriculture projects that more than 48 million tonnes of grain will be exported through US gulf ports in 2021. To get the cargo to the Gulf ports, barges must pass through locks on the Mississippi River and other rivers that flow into it.

“This bipartisan agreement also includes a number of necessary and overdue provisions designed to boost the resiliency of the agricultural supply chain, including investments in cybersecurity and an apprenticeship pilot program to address the nationwide truck driver shortage,” Seyfert said. 

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) also praised the bill’s passage but expressed disappointment that amendments to fund infrastructure to support the use of higher ethanol blends were not addressed.

“Greater deployment of higher ethanol blends would immediately lower greenhouse gas emissions and help clean the air, and higher blends save consumers money at the pump,” said John Linder, president of the NCGA. “We will continue to work with members of Congress and the Biden administration on pathways to include infrastructure and other support for higher blends of biofuels as an effective energy solution.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.