The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would allocate millions of dollars in funding to improve the navigability of the Upper Mississippi River System, a vital national artery for the shipment of corn and other crops.
“Corn growers depend on the Mississippi River to deliver corn to key markets. When barges are delayed because of problems on the river, farmers are economically affected,” said Brooke Appleton, Vice President of Public Policy for the National Corn Growers Association. “That’s why we have worked closely with members of Congress to get funding for this project passed.”
The House bill, which includes appropriations funding on other issues, provides $8.66 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Mission. From those funds, $22.5 million will go toward construction funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). NESP funding will be used to construct new locks on the river and help address efficiency issues with existing locks and dams. The funding will also be used to improve conditions for fish and wildlife.
More than 60% of the nation’s corn and soybeans are transported on the Mississippi River. But an aging system – many of the locks were constructed between 1907 and 1936 – has led to delays and closures along the river. Farmers often feel the economic impact from these problems, and this project will help ensure the river system’s long-term viability.
The Senate has yet to take up appropriations bills for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October of this year. NCGA will advocate that funding for the NESP program also be prioritized in the Senate’s version of the bill.