Transportation & Infrastructure

ASA supports directing federal infrastructure funding toward improving commercial transportation, including locks and dams and rural roads and bridges.

Much of the U.S. inland waterway system, including locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, was built in the 1930s and is in critical need of repair and improvement. This system is key to maintaining U.S. competitiveness with Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of soybeans. U.S. agriculture and other industries have pushed for funding to renovate the system for more than 20 years, but only marginal progress has been made.

ASA would like to see accelerated funding for inland waterways infrastructure upgrades and deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel.

 

Photo Courtesy of USB

ASA specifically supports:

  • Securing sufficient funding for continued Corps of Engineers dredging operations, including deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50
  • An increase in the federal component of the cost-share ratio of Inland Waterways Trust Fund projects to further accelerate timeframe for completion of upgraded locks on inland waterways
  • $10 million for Preconstruction Engineering & Design (PED) of Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) projects, which includes locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi & Illinois River system.

Issues Background

ASA supports $10 million for Preconstruction Engineering & Design (PED) of Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) projects, which includes locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi & Illinois system. The PED funding is provided outside of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and is necessary so that the NESP projects, including construction of new locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi & Illinois River systems can begin when it is their turn in the queue (around 2024).

The policy changes achieved in the 2014 WRDA, the increase in the barge fuel fee, and increases in annual appropriations have served to reduce the timeframe for completion of the long-standing, currently authorized inland waterways projects. Since 2014, the annual Energy & Water appropriations bill has provided increased and record funding levels for the IWTF and USACE Operations & Maintenance accounts. Since 2014, Congress has also committed to completion of WRDA reauthorization legislation every two years.

The IWTF is funded by a 29 cent per gallon barge fuel fee, which is paid by industry, including soybean farmers. The IWTF revenues are matched with funds from the general Treasury for a 50/50 cost-share of projects. In recent years, Congress has changed the cost share ratio for specific projects to 85/15 or 75/25 to accelerate their funding and completion. In the FY19 Energy & Water Appropriations bill, Congress shifted the cost share for the Chickamauga Lock & Dam project to 85/15. Industry supports shifting the cost share ratio for all IWTF projects to 75/25 or 85/15.

Shifting the cost share to a 75-25 ratio would ensure the IWTF continues operating at the same funding level that has been achieved the last six years and could enable currently authorized projects to be completed in a 10- to 20-year timeframe.

ASA applauds Congress for including funding for the Regional Dredge Demonstration Program in the year-end Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

ASA also applauds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for including deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel (MRSC) in its Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan in February 2020. We appreciate congressional support of this project, which will significantly benefit the competitiveness of the U.S. soybean industry and individual farmer profitability when complete.

Continued investment is critical to the success of this project. The 256-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico accounts for 60% of U.S. soybean exports, along with 59% of corn exports–easily the top export region for both commodities. Soy Transportation Coalition research highlights that if the MRSC is dredged to 50 feet, shipping costs for soybeans from Mississippi Gulf export terminals would decline 13 cents per bushel ($5 per metric ton). This is because a deeper river allows both use of larger ships and current ships can be loaded with more revenue-producing freight. Even soybean-growing states further from the river would benefit from increased modal competition between rail and barge.