WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Legislative approval of a 9¢-a-gallon increase in the user fee on barge diesel fuel to help finance improvements of locks on the U.S. inland waterways system was commended by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) as a means to make  much-needed infrastructure updates.

The higher user fee, starting April 1, 2015, was part of a tax-extender bill approved by Congress that President Barack Obama has indicated he will sign into law.

The barge diesel user fee assessed on barge and tow-boat operators will increase to 29¢ a gallon from the current 20¢ a gallon. Funds raised by the user fee will be matched dollar-for-dollar with tax revenues to finance waterway projects. The NGFA said money raised from the fee change was expected to generate about $40 million annually in additional revenues for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

“The increase is supported strongly by both barge carriers and their customers — including the agricultural shippers that consist of our members — to provide the financial wherewithal to make the necessary improvements to our nation’s waterways infrastructure,” said Randy Gordon, president of the NGFA. “America’s inland waterways infrastructure is in desperate need of renovation and modernization, and this much-needed increase in the user fee is absolutely essential to the future global competitiveness and economic growth of U.S. agriculture and other industries and job creation they represent.”

About 60% of U.S. grains and oilseed exports annually move on the Mississippi river system to the Louisiana Gulf. U.S. farmers also receive crop inputs such as fertilizer shipments by river transportation. Barges also play a key role in movement of commodities shipped through Pacific Northwest ports, the NGFA said.