STC Offers Suggestions For Infrastructure Improvements

In an email sent to industry stakeholders on August 7, Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), referred to a “Top 10 Most Wanted List” that elected officials should consider for increasing agriculture’s competitiveness. The list also suggests ways in which to mitigate any negative consequences of the trade turmoil with international customers.

First on the list is the recommendation for maintenance and rehabilitation of locks and dams to significantly reduce the potential for unexpected, widespread and prolonged failure. “Priority should be devoted to ensuring the reliability of locks and dams should be directed first to locks and dams 20-25 on the Mississippi River,” said STC.

Another recommendation includes dredging the Lower Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, La., and the Gulf of Mexico to 50 feet. Other recommendations on the list include:

• ensure that the Columbia River shipping channel from Portland, Ore., to the Pacific Ocean is maintained at no less than 43 feet;

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• permit six-axle, 91,000-pound semi-trucks to operate on the interstate highway system;

• increase the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel by 10 cents a gallon and index the tax to inflation. Ensure rural areas receive proportionate, sufficient funding from the fuel tax increase;

• provide greater predictability and reliability of funding for the locks and dams along the inland waterway system;

• provide block grants to states to replace the top 20 most critical rural bridges;

• provide grants to states to implement rural bridge load testing projects to more accurately diagnose which bridges are sufficient and which bridges are deficient;

• ensure full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for port improvement initiatives; and

• permanently (or at least multi-year) extend the short line railroad tax credit.

“All too often, infrastructure projects can only provide a theoretical benefit,” said Steenhoek. “Dredging the Lower Mississippi River is an example of a tangible investment having a tangible impact on farmers throughout the country. Soybean farmers retaining $461 million in additional annual revenue would be a welcome prospect during this turbulent time.”

Steenhoek noted in his email that investment in infrastructure remains one of President Trump’s top priorities. “It is our hope that there will soon be renewed attention and focus by the president and Congress to make strategic enhancements to our transportation system,” he said. “Making these infrastructure investments in no way eliminates the potential consequences of the current trade friction with our key international customers, but it is a tool in the toolbox that will not only help moderate the current anxiety, but it will also position us to thrive in the years to come.”