Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Thursday 05/15/14

WRRDA Draws Strong Support

Conferees on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act provided some details on the legislation on Thursday while the Waterways Council and some farm groups praised the bill.

The Waterways Council praised the bill and cited some reforms and funding shifts that are in the legislation. The National Grain and Feed Association said change in the bill "will help maintain U.S. agricultural competitiveness in world markets and ensure U.S. farmers receive needed crop inputs to produce grains, oilseeds and other agricultural commodities."

American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said, "This is a huge step forward to ensure the continued success of the soybean supply chain, and leaders in both the House and Senate deserve a great deal of credit for shepherding this bill through a challenging policymaking climate."

The albatross around the neck of inland water projects -- the Olmsted Lock & Dam in Illinois Kentucky -- will be federalized. Olmsted has been under construction since the early 1990s. Olmsted was originally projected to cost around $775 million, but the costs have ballooned to more than $3 billion. Under the WRRDA bill, the U.S. government will pay for 85% of the costs left on the Olmsted project. The Inland Waterways Trust Fund would be responsible for 15%. The Waterways Council says that will free up roughly $105 million a year for other projects. (The grain and feed association estimated the money that can be freed up at $56 million.)

The American Soybean Association cited some of the improvements in the way projects are funded. "The conference report includes multiple soybean industry priorities including provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increasing the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging; streamlining the Army Corps of Engineers’ project review process; increasing Corps flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events; and promoting the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure."

The Waterways Council did note that Congress still needs to approve an increase in the user fee for diesel fuel. The increase was part of the tax reform bill offered by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. Camp included a 6-cent increase to the user fee in his discussion draft of a tax reform bill, the Waterways Council cited.

The WRRDA bill should clear Congress before the Memorial Day break. The bill had broad support last fall with 417 House members supporting it.

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Posted at 9:23PM CDT 05/15/14 by Chris Clayton
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