Agriculture groups say a bill signed by President Obama this week is a step toward vital upgrades for the nation’s aging lock and dam system. But they also say there is more work to do.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act authorizes the spending of $12 billion in federal money on water projects. That includes improvements to lock and dam systems, and ports. Under the legislation, taxpayers would foot half of the cost and the other half would come from a tax on the diesel fuel used by barge operators.
With the bill signed, it’s up to Congress to actually appropriate the funding and approve the tax.
Jim Tarmann of the Illinois Corn Growers Association says many farmers hope that will happen.
“We’re willing to accept the responsibility of upgrading our system. We just need a Congress that’s willing to – if you will – allow us to tax ourselves to make those improvements.” - Jim Tarmann, Illinois Corn Growers Association
Corn growers say improvements to river infrastructure are vital to Midwest farmers. They want to further tap world markets by shipping through U.S. ports. With billions of taxpayer dollars at stake, Congress has to decide if that is a priority.