The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is pleased that authorization to build much needed locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers took a giant leap forward July 19 after the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a voice vote.

“Today we have moved closer to an efficient and modern navigation system on the rivers,” says Gerald Tumbleson, NCGA president. “Corn growers have worked many, many years to ensure the transportation infrastructure is modernized and we appreciate the tireless efforts of our members and their legislators who helped get the bill to the Senate floor.”

The legislation would authorize a 15-year project that includes the construction of seven 1,200-foot locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The legislation will also provide for the creation of a major ecosystem restoration program.

Corps reform amendments were at the center of debate and focused on how water resource projects are prioritized and how they are independently reviewed. The Senate passed one amendment that the NCGA opposed, the McCain/Feingold amendment dealing with Corps approval process. Tumbleson says NCGA will seek changes to the amendment in the conference committee process.

“We look forward to working with House and Senate conferees as they work to finalize the two versions of this necessary infrastructure legislation,” says Tumbleson. “We are optimistic we will see the final passage of the bill before year’s end.”

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) echoed Tumbleson’s sentiments on waterway improvements. "We are one step closer to modernizing our waterways so farmers and producers can be more efficient and more competitive," he says. "That's how you protect jobs here at home. Without a competitive transportation system, the promise of expanded trade and commercial growth is empty, job opportunities are lost, and we will be unprepared for the global challenges of this new century."