By a vote of 412 to 4 Tuesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the conference report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The report will now be voted on by the Senate likely later this week, at which point the report is expected to pass easily.
National Corn Growers Assn. president Martin Barbre said, WRRDA is crucial to farmers as more than 60% of the nation’s grain exports are transported by barge. “The locks and dams we depend upon to transport our cargoes today were built in the 1920s and 1930s. It is imperative that we improve this crucial infrastructure. The need is urgent; U.S. farmers and businesses rely upon this transportation channel. Infrastructure improvements fuel our domestic economy and improve our ability to compete in markets abroad,” he said.
WRRDA will bring $6 billion in total cost savings and important reforms to ensure the reliability and strength of our nation’s inland waterways and ports, the American Farm Bureau Federation said in a statement ahead of the vote.
According to a statement from the Illinois Farm Bureau, the flood protection, port improvements and upgrades to the nation’s aging locks and dams that are authorized under WRRDA are long overdue. “Having an efficient, reliable system of locks, dams and ports – as outlined in this bill – is critical if the U.S. is to remain competitive in the global marketplace,” the statement noted.
A statement from the American Soybean Assn. said the conference report includes multiple soybean industry priorities including provisions that will free up significant funding within the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for additional waterways infrastructure projects; increasing the level of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars that will be spent on port maintenance and dredging; streamlining the Army Corps of Engineers’ project review process; increasing Corps flexibility to maintain navigation during low water events; and promoting the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways infrastructure.
“This new agreement is one of the most streamlined and reformed water resources bills Congress has passed,” said Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.).
Also included in H.R. 3080 is a provision (Section 1049) that addresses the EPA’s overreaching Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations, requiring farmers and ranchers to make costly infrastructure investments to oil storage facilities. While the provision did not include the higher exemption sought in Crawford’s bipartisan Famers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act (H.R. 311), it provides an immediate exemption for on-farm oil storage facilities of 6,000 gallons or less.
“I appreciate the inclusion of my SPCC regulatory relief provision in H.R. 3080, but I believe there is still more work to do,” said Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.). “Small farmers and ranchers will enjoy much-needed relief from this costly burden, but I believe we must continue to push for a higher SPCC exemption that’s more reflective of a producer’s spill risk and financial resources. Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of their land, and the government should not be in the business of imposing costly mandates for a problem that does not exist.”