Apr 20, 2007
Legislation Championed by Soybean Growers for Many Years
The American Soybean Association (ASA) today hailed House passage of H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA). The bill passed by an overwhelming margin of 394 to 25 on Thursday night. ASA, and soybean farmers across the country, have been working tirelessly for many years to secure passage of this legislation to improve and modernize the U.S. maritime transportation infrastructure.
"House passage of the Water Resources and Development Act is a critical step forward in the battle for much-needed improvements on the Mississippi and Illinois waterways," said ASA President Rick Ostlie, a soybean producer from Northwood, N.D. "With over 75 percent of U.S. soybean exports moving to world ports via the upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems, modern and efficient waterways and ports are essential to our economic well-being and international competitiveness."
Ports and waterways contribute $718 billion to the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) while ensuring domestic and international trade opportunities and safe, low-cost, eco-friendly transportation. Navigation on the upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers supports over 400,000 jobs, including 90,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs.
"While U.S. waterways remain the most economical and environmentally friendly way to move U.S. soybeans to foreign and domestic markets, over 50 percent of our locks and dams have aged beyond their life cycle and many are crumbling," Ostlie said. "Many are unable to handle today’s barges that are twice as long as when the system was built in the 1930s. Many barges must be split and sent through in two separate sections causing delays which result in higher transportation costs, lower commodity prices and fewer international sales for U.S. farmers."
This legislation will provide funding for construction of seven new locks and other critical improvements on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. In addition, it includes funding for many important ecosystem restoration projects along the rivers.
"We want to thank Chairman Jim Oberstar and Ranking Member John Mica for working to move the bill through the House," Ostlie said. "We also want to extend thanks to Representatives Jerry Costello and Kenny Hulshof, whose support has been key to ensuring that the projects on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers were included in the bill. ASA applauds their commitment and leadership on this important economic and environmental legislation."
The House and Senate passed similar measures last year, but were not given final approval before the end of the congressional session. The Senate is expected to consider a similar version of the bill in the next few months.
"ASA will continue to push for Senate passage and a final bill before the end of this congressional session," Ostlie concluded. "The future of our country depends on a modern, efficient and environmentally friendly maritime transportation system. We owe it to our children to ensure them an economically and environmentally sustainable future."