WASHINGTON, May 25, 2015— The National Grain and Feed Association appreciates the efforts of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today in approving the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in an important step toward more frequent and thorough oversight of the U.S. inland waterways system and U.S. harbors.
However, NGFA said it will continue to advocate for certain provisions not included in the House bill as it advances to floor consideration, including an increase in the monetary threshold for major waterways rehabilitation projects.
Congress in 2014 enacted a sweeping and significant WRDA bill. The two previous bills were separated by seven years, but Congress now is committed to completing a bill every two years, which NGFA hailed as a significant development.
WRDA 2016 continues the welcomed reforms of the 2014 legislation by authorizing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects and addressing continued reforms in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which supports the dredging and expansion of U.S. ports and waterways.
Attention to U.S. waterways infrastructure is necessary to compete in a global marketplace, the NGFA noted. This year, completion of the project to expand the Panama Canal will enable transit by much larger vessels.
“Other countries are continuing to invest in their own water resources infrastructure and the U.S. must compete.” said NGFA Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy Bobby Frederick. “We appreciate the commitment from lawmakers to invest the resources and attention these issues deserve through regular oversight and the biannual WRDA process. This commitment demonstrates the importance of waterborne transportation for all aspects of the American economy and will help ensure that our nation’s infrastructure is primed for growth.”
The Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) supports the construction of major rehabilitation projects on the nation’s waterways system. In an effort to ensure proper maintenance and protect IWTF dollars, the NGFA is urging that the major rehabilitation threshold should be increased from the current $20 million in the House WRDA bill. While the committee did not include this provision in this year’s legislation, NGFA said it appreciates the support of Reps. Jimmy Duncan, R-Tenn., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who offered, but withdrew, a proposal to increase the threshold to $35 million as an amendment during the markup.
NGFA said it is pleased this year’s WRDA bill authorizes 28 “Chief’s Reports,” or final recommendations from the Army Corps of Engineers to Congress on infrastructure project priorities.
The 2016 WRDA bill continues to allow full spending of annual receipts of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to be utilized by 2025, and also makes permanent a 10 percent set aside of the trust fund resources for small ports.
NGFA said it also supports the omission of any language in the bill to authorize tolling or lockage fees on U.S. waterways.
The NGFA, established in 1896, consists of more than 1,050 grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related companies that operate more than 7,000 facilities and handle more than 70 percent of all U.S. grains and oilseeds. Its membership includes grain elevators; feed and feed ingredient manufacturers; biofuels companies; grain and oilseed processors and millers; exporters; livestock and poultry integrators; and associated firms that provide goods and services to the nation’s grain, feed and processing industry. The NGFA also consists of 26 affiliated State and Regional Grain and Feed Associations, and has strategic alliances with Pet Food Institute and North American Export Grain Association.