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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:16 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Congress OKs River System Improvement Bill

Farmers are hopeful improvements are coming to the Midwest river system, which is crucial for shipping grain, in the form of the Waterways Resource Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

After years of work on the bill, Congress recently smashed together separate bills passed by each chamber and sent the White House a new $12.3 billion water infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. President Obama has yet to state whether he plans to sign the bill.

The legislation authorizes improvements such as deepening ports. Grain farmers in the Midwest expect it may ultimately allow for larger ships to carry corn, soybeans and wheat to foreign markets.

Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser, president of the American Soybean Association, says exports are an increasingly important part of grain marketing. But many locks and dams are 80-years-old and modern ships are too big for the depth of some U.S. ports.

“That infrastructure, that ability to effectively and efficiently move our products within the United States and throughout the world, it’s a big deal to agriculture,” Gaesser said.

Shipping American farm products abroad has become an economic driver for U.S. agriculture.

“The demand for soybeans, that protein and oil that we have from the soybeans, has just been growing so terrifically in the last 20 years,” Gaesser said. “Meeting that demand is important.”

Should Obama sign the bill, Congress would still have to decide exactly how and whether to appropriate funding.