Passage of water resources development act good for farmers

With a vote of 83 to 14 this morning, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

“We applaud the efforts of Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman to see this important piece of legislation through the Senate. Improving waterway infrastructure is vital to farmers and all forms of commerce, especially on a large waterway like the Ohio River,” said Tadd Nicholson, with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. “Very few industries have a trade surplus with other countries, but thankfully in part due to the United State’s system of waterways, agriculture, has this ability and is able to transport products around the world, keeping jobs in Ohio. The proper care and upkeep for this infrastructure is vital to Ohio’s farmers and general economy.”

“We will continue to stay engaged and ask the House to follow the lead of the Senate and move forward to protect and maintain a crucial part of the United States economy.”

The move was also cheered by the American Soybean Association (ASA), whose members rely on a healthy waterways infrastructure to move their soybeans to market.

“Improving and investing in our waterways infrastructure is vital to the U.S. soybean industry,” said ASA President and Canton, Miss., soybean farmer Danny Murphy. “With more than half of our crop exported, soybean farmers depend on an efficient transportation system to remain competitive in global markets. We face stiff global competition from many countries, and our ability to get our products quickly and efficiently to market is one of the aspects that sets our industry apart from those competitors. We simply cannot afford to ignore the needs of that infrastructure. We welcome the Senate’s overwhelming support of these priorities as evidenced by the vote today and call on the House to pass the bill quickly.”

S. 601 includes provisions to annually increase the amount of funding that is provided from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for port maintenance and dredging; to streamline the process for Corps of Engineers projects and reduce project completion times; and to free up money and increase the capacity of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) by taking the Olmsted Lock and Dam project out of the trust fund account.

Additionally, ASA was pleased that the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment to S. 601 offered by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to exempt certain farms that store oil in aboveground tanks from federal oil spill regulations. The amendment would set storage tank thresholds below which agricultural operations would be excluded from U.S. EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule (SPCC).

“While ASA supports additional measures not included in S. 601 to increase revenues for the IWTF and establish alternative financing mechanisms in order to provide more money to address inland waterways infrastructure projects,” Murphy said. “We appreciate the significant progress that is made by S. 601 and we look forward to continuing work with Congress to achieve enactment of a final WRDA in 2013.”

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