The House of Representatives on Friday passed its Fiscal Year 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which will boost funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects to improve waterways function.
Waterways function and infrastructure is a priority for agriculture and the American Soybean Association, given the amount of soybeans that are shipped to export destinations annually.
"The waterways and ports are vital to the efficient transportation of soybeans and other major commodities and a key factor in maintaining competitiveness for U.S. soybeans in global export markets," ASA President Wade Cowan explained.
Within the Corps of Engineers Construction account, the bill provides $340 million from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for priority navigation projects, which utilizes all the revenues received into the trust fund, including increased revenues resulting from the barge fuel fee increase enacted by Congress in 2014.
For the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the committee's appropriation of $1.178 billion was amended on the floor to increase the level to $1.25 billion, which is $150 million or 14% higher than last year's $1.1 billion, and well above the $915 million than the Administration requested from the HMTF.
The Corps' Operations & Maintenance account funding level is $3.094 billion, the highest ever appropriated to this account in an annual appropriation bill, and the third consecutive year of record-level O&M funding, ASA said. It is nearly $390 million higher than the Administration's FY16 requested level.
While the bill has passed the House, the Senate must still act on a bill and ASA said it could face a potential Presidential veto.
The White House has issued a statement indicating that the president's advisors would recommend that he veto the bill in its current form citing reductions to certain energy programs that are priorities for the Administration.
The Waterways Council, Inc., also supports the bill and its provisions for the Inland Waterways Trust.
"[The bill] is a huge win toward modernization of our nation's inland navigation system," WCI President Michael Toohey said, following the House Committee's passage of the bill last week.