The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) applauds Congress’ decision to increase the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget to more than $5.3 billion, some of which will help repair locks on the Mississippi River. Congress gave the Corps more than $1 billion above President George W. Bush’s proposal.

The Senate and House of Representatives conferees agreed to the Energy and Water Appropriations conference report for fiscal year 2006. The bill makes appropriations for the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. Some of the immediate implications for Upper Mississippi River System navigation include major rehabilitations at lock and dams 3, 11, 19 and 24, as well as continuation of the Navigation-Ecosystem Sustainability Program.

“NCGA appreciates Congress’ hard work in ensuring that the Army Corps of Engineers receives sufficient funding to rehabilitate part of our aging lock system,” says Lisa Kelley, NCGA director of public policy. “The repairs will go a long way in helping improve shipping on our nation’s main waterway. Though this is a big step, we now need to call on Congress to pass the Water and Resources Development Act, which would help corn growers move grain quickly and efficiently through an up-to-date waterway infrastructure.”

“Any time we can improve our waterway infrastructure, that’s a plus,” says Bill Chase, chair of the NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team. “The money for some lock upgrades will certainly help our growers in the near future with shipping efficiency.”

Money was also included in the bill to fund the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort. Flood protection and coastal restoration for Louisiana was an important reason. The conferees expect additional resources will be provided in subsequent supplemental appropriations bills to continue to address the Gulf Coast needs.

The bill also funds the Biomass Technologies Program at more than $91 million. The program helps convert plant-derived materials to fuel, chemicals and other materials.