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AGRIBUSINESS: Appropriating Funds To Waterway Reform Bill A Challenge

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On Tuesday, President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

Congress is supposed to authorize and appropriate a WRRDA bill every two years but it's been seven years since the last one. Repairing the inland waterways system is prohibitively expensive.

Funding for locks and dams projects is split equally between general treasury funds and a 20-cent per gallon diesel tax on barges; that funding still isn't enough, and the shipping industry wants a six to nine cent tax increase to cover costs.

Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says it's a tough sell.

"Any tax increase, even if it's something that is advocated by the taxpayers, in this situation, the barge industry, is really viewed unfavorably in this political climate that we find ourselves in. No one wants to be accused of raising taxes on Americans during a period of economic malaise."

Authorizing a bill is one thing; Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says it's sort of like a blueprint. Appropriating, that is, actually channeling funds into projects and programs that the authorized bill outlines, is a completely different challenge.

But Steenhoek says the outlook on WRRDA is positive.

"We're hopeful now that the appropriations process will comply with the directions established in in this piece of legislation. Thus far it appears that that's going to happen the appropriations process is underway and it looks like some of the spending decisions are going to be in compliance with WRRDA and that's a favorable development."

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation will cost $12.3 billion over the next ten years.