WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and lifelong family farmer, joined a group of bipartisan senators led by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urging the Administration to include sufficient funding in its fiscal year 2019 budget request to continue preconstruction engineering and design for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP).
NESP was authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 and is a multi-purpose program aimed at upgrading critical Mississippi River system navigation lock and dam infrastructure and providing an integrated approach to addressing Mississippi River ecosystem restoration. The senators also requested that the Administration include funding in the Army Corps of Engineers’ 2018 Work Plan, which would allow construction to begin immediately.
Inland and intercoastal waterways and ports are vital to the U.S. economy. These waterways serve 41 states throughout the nation as shippers and consumers depend on the ability to move around one billion tons of cargo valued at more than $380 billion annually. The United States is the world’s largest agricultural exporting country, selling one third of its product abroad. Agricultural exports account for about a quarter of farm cash receipts. In 2008, 79 percent of U.S. agricultural exports were carried on U.S. waterways.
“Further investment in NESP would strengthen infrastructure and navigation for the entire river and recognize the significance of the UMRS ecosystem to surrounding communities and wildlife,” the senators wrote. “With the expansion of world food and energy needs, the Mississippi River is poised to be more important than ever. The river already moves large volumes of agricultural and energy products between U.S. markets and ports, and serves as the country’s busiest waterway. However, the overwhelming majority of UMRS infrastructure was constructed in the 1930s and has exceeded its design life by decades, causing closure and limiting overall capacity. Improvements are necessary.”
In addition to Blunt, Baldwin and Grassley, the letter was signed by Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), John Kennedy (La.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).
Read the full text of the letter here.