Another 4th of July has come and gone. We can all be grateful for our "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave." We look to our leaders of our nation today to preserve it.
Before I focus on today’s priority issue, I want to congratulate the chosen winners of the World Food Prize. They are Marc Van Montagu, Mary Dell-Chilton, and Robert Fraley. Their research in biotechnology has revolutionized modern farming. When I look at my weed-free fields of corn and soy beans, I say thank you. I vividly remember visiting Monsanto and Robert Fraley in the early 1990s to just get a glimpse of what was on the horizon. Amazing! Now, we have the scientific weapons of GE crops to fight hunger and malnutrition.
Now, let’s turn to another serious issue – our inland waterway and port infrastructure. We have been neglecting our water system for years. We all remember the drought and struggle to keep the Mississippi River open for barge traffic last year.
The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining and improving a network of 12,000 miles of inland waterways plus more than 900 ports. More than 60% of our farm exports move to port by waterways – nearly 80 million tons a years. We need a modern, efficient water system to move our corn, soy beans, wheat, etc. to markets around the world. It is worth noting that transporting product by waterways costs half as much as transport by rail.
Steve Stockton, representing the Corps of Engineers, spoke to our Agriculture Roundtable group recently at a luncheon. He made a convincing case for funding improvements in our waterway system. The ag industry has a lot at stake.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is working on a Water Resources Development Act. We need to push that Committee and the Congress to take action. A small 10 cents per gallon fuel tax on barge and the towing industry can fix a lot of locks and dams. It is a necessary user fee. It is time to act now.