U.S. Senate approval on Sept. 24 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conference report "moves us one step closer to meaningful improvements for our river system," says Tim Recker, a northeast Iowa farmer and president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
"You can't use a piece of equipment far beyond its normal life span and expect it to keep performing," says Recker, noting that much of the Mississippi River lock system dates from before World War II. "The Midwest's economy is paying a price every time our decaying lock system slows shipping."
Recker praised Iowa's senators and congressmen for their commitment to improving the Mississippi River transportation system. "They understand that this work is long overdue and that we need to upgrade the system before there's a total failure. Our corn grower members appreciate the way all our delegation has worked together to make this progress."
Need to upgrade before system collapses
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the WRDA conference agreement by a vote of 381 to 40 on Aug. 1. The Senate's approval on Sept. 24, by an 81 to 12 vote, sends the finished bill to President Bush for signing.
Administration sources have threatened a veto of WRDA, but the wide margins of support in both the House and Senate make a veto override possible.
In addition to authorizing the expansion and upgrading of key locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, WRDA provides for extensive environmental improvements and rehabilitation along both rivers.
Recker thanked ICGA members especially for "fighting the good fight for infrastructure improvements" and recognized the contributions of other key leaders, including Iowa union representatives, to the effort. The ICGA has made lock and dam improvement a top priority on its legislative agenda for more than a decade, he says.
This bill still needs to be funded
However, even if President Bush signs the bill and it becomes law, it will still need to be funded, which could likely be another battle in Congress.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey also praised the U.S. Senate for passing the WRDA conference report. "The U.S. House of Representatives had previously passed the measure, so now it will go to President Bush to be signed into law," he notes.
The bill would authorize the expansion and upgrading of key locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. These systems are critical to the shipment of agricultural commodities from Iowa.
Secretary Northey stated: "The Mississippi River is a key pathway for crops from Iowa fields to reach the rest of the world. It is critical that the locks and dams be in good working order so that farmers don't have to take a price hit every time they can't get their products to customers around the world. "I thank our entire congressional delegation for their support and all of their hard work in getting this bill passed," says Northey. "I hope President Bush signs the bill."