WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — In letters to U.S. House and Senate appropriators, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) asked for continued leadership in support of inland waterways infrastructure, whose locks and dams are in a precarious state of disrepair given most are well beyond their 50-year projected lifespan.
The letters signed by 19 other agricultural groups asked appropriators to build upon their strong investment in waterways funding in fiscal 2016, emphasizing that continued momentum is needed during the fiscal 2017 appropriations process.
"From an agricultural users' perspective, having access to a modern and efficient inland waterways transportation system is vital to the efficient production, marketing and shipment of agricultural products in international commerce," the letter states, adding that the U.S. exports nearly one-quarter of the grain it produces.
Last year was a strong, impactful year for waterways funding, with appropriators allocating far above the administration's deficient requested budget.
This year, NGFA and other members of the agricultural industry are asking lawmakers to continue that momentum by appropriating the full amount supportable by the diesel fuel tax going into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which is expected to be $390 million in fiscal 2017.
Additionally, NGFA made the case for a minimum funding level of $3.137 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations & maintenance (O&M) account, which represents the same funding that was provided in fiscal 2016. The letter noted that the Corps still has significant progress to make on the project backlog.
"In 2014, 73% of the volume of U.S. agricultural exports and 65% of imports were transported via our waterways," the letters said. "Having access to competitive barge transportation also helps discipline rates for other modes of transportation- an important factor given current depressed agricultural commodity values...We believe these facts help make the case for renewed commitment and investment in our waterways and port infrastructure."