Soybean farmers like federal spending bill
The farmers of the American Soybean Association welcomed action last week by both the House and the Senate to pass the FY2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The bill, which easily passed both the House and the Senate, combines all 12 appropriations bills for various spending categories—including Agriculture, Energy & Water, and other areas that impact soybean farmers—into one measure, and allocates funding for programs within each. Several of these programs represent significant policy priorities for soybean farmers, including those addressing waterways infrastructure, agricultural research, food aid and market reports.
The bill’s Energy & Water section includes provisions that will significantly increase funding for waterways components. These provisions are strongly supported by ASA and have been priorities for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the authorization bill that is currently in conference committee. Under the bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction General Account receives $1.6 billion and revises the FY14 cost-sharing formula for the Olmsted Lock & dam project to 75 percent General Funds and 25 percent from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). Currently the cost-share is split evenly and has resulted in the Olmsted project consuming nearly all of the IWTF funds. The revised cost share will free up $81.5 million for other projects that have been delayed because of Olmsted’s cost overruns.
Another victory for ASA comes in the form of a significant increase in spending for port and navigation channel improvements, funded out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). The bill provides $1 billion from the HMTF for port and navigation channel maintenance and dredging. The HMTF collects approximately $1.6 billion annually and in past years only about half has been provided for actual harbor maintenance, with the rest diverted to general government purposes. ASA has consistently advocated to free up money from the IWTF and increase the amounts from the HMTF that go toward port maintenance and dredging.
“Waterways infrastructure is so critical for soybean farmers. Without it, more time, money and resources are needed to move our products to market,” said Ray Gaesser, a soybean and corn farmer from Corning, Iowa, and ASA’s President. “The productive work of the appropriations committee this week is not only a policy victory for ASA and other waterways stakeholders, but also a positive sign that the WRDA conference committee may be nearing completion with similar provisions for waterways funding in future years.”
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