BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Last night the U.S. Senate passed by a 76-16 vote the increase in the barge user fee that Illinois farmers, laborers, and the conservation community have been supporting for years.
The nine cent increase in the user fee will generate the necessary funds to enable locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to be upgraded and expanded, allowing Illinois farmers to compete more fairly in a global marketplace. The U.S. House passed the same fee in a vote on December 3.
“IL Corn is elated to see positive movement towards the modernization of the locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. This is something we’ve worked towards for many years. Taking another big step in the right direction is incredibly exciting for Illinois farmers,” said Kenneth Hartman, Jr, President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.
The inland waterways provide capacity and the most cost-competitive and environmentally friendly option for corn and other commodities. The facts are clear:
- 60 percent of the nation’s export-bound grain is transported on the inland waterways.
- The Panama Canal expansion will create opportunities for increased American trade, but not if our channels are not dredged and our locks and dams are not functioning.
- American consumers benefit from transportation cost-savings made possible by the inland waterways; for every $1 invested in our inland waterways, $10 is returned in national benefits.
IL Corn and the Illinois farmers they represent have long supported an increase in the user fee, knowing that whatever costs are passed along to farmers will be more than repaid by increased efficiencies in the transportation system.
“This fee increase is not only supported by Illinois corn farmers, but also by all other users of the inland waterways system who will see important efficiency gains. Funding and building new, expanded locks and dams is a win-win situation for everyone. IL Corn is happy to see legislators finally recognize this positive and act accordingly,” Hartman said.
Thanks to the Waterways Council, Inc and the Carpenters Union for their work alongside farmers on this issue.