In letters Friday to the House and Senate committees responsible for tackling the Water Resources Development Act conference report, the National Corn Growers Association urges quick action to pass the legislation and oppose a section of the Senate version aiming to create a review panel of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' procedures.
NCGA President Gerald Tumbleson thanked the committees for their support and urged them to convene as quickly as possible to finalize this important piece of legislation before the October congressional recess.
In addition, Tumbleson asked the committees to reconsider support of Section 2006 in the Senate bill S.728, which would establish a Corps procedures review panel. NCGA believes such a panel would create more bureaucracy and limit the Corps' abilities to begin work on lock and dam modernization on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, in addition to the several other projects. NCGA also voiced their support of the bipartisan Corp reform provisions included in the House passed bill.
"As conference committee gets under way, we ask that you oppose Section 2006 in the Senate-passed bill," Tumbleson said in the letters. "This section establishes a quasi-agency of Cabinet members, with neither the proper expertise nor oversight from Congressional committees, to review internal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers procedures. It would be a tragedy to the American heartland and the nation if WRDA authorizes lock modernization and ecosystem restoration provisions crafted through years of community input and consensus building, while at the same time, including bureaucratic barriers that could prevent them from ever happening."
With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, Tumbleson noted the importance of improving the Mississippi River system. The hurricane shut down river traffic for weeks, disabling the orderly movement of grain throughout the rest of the country and causing increased transportation costs.
"If Katrina taught us anything, it's that the Mississippi River is a system, and if any one component of that system should fail, the system as a whole fails," Tumbleson states. "If a lock should experience a complete shutdown, it would have nearly the same effect as Hurricane Katrina shutting down the Port of New Orleans. We urge Congress to finally pass legislation to modernize and protect the inland waterway transportation system. The Mississippi River and the New Orleans export region are critical for U.S. agriculture and the transportation of numerous other goods," Tumbleson adds.