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Senate's water bill sets up veto battle

Agriculture.com Staff 09/26/2007 @ 7:52am

Sometimes acronyms take on a life of their own. WRDA, pronounced whir-duh, is short for the Water Resources Development Act, which the Senate approved Monday after years of lobbying by the National Corn Growers Association and grain and barge company representatives.

For years, several state corn grower groups have been taking bargeloads of farmers, politicians and the media on Mississippi River visits to a series of overworked and aging locks and dams. Part of the $23 billion bill will pay for expansion and improvements of locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi as well as environmental improvements along the river.

The bill, which has been considered in Congress for seven years, passed the Senate by 81 to 12, but it's not law yet.

"I expect the president to veto the bill," Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters Tuesday. But like the Senate vote, the House passage of WRDA was by a veto-proof margin of 381 to 40, more than the two-thirds required.

"This is a very important step, as far as the Mississippi River is concerned for agriculture, due to growing competition, particularly if you see as I did one time, how easy it is to get soybeans out of Brazil through the Amazon," Grassley said. "These infrastructure improvements are needed if we are to remain competitive in the world agricultural economy."

In a statement released Tuesday, Grassley's Iowa colleague, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin said, "Improving shipping lanes for our exports and transporting goods from fertilizer to building materials to Iowa is important to American agriculture's and other industries' ability to compete internationally. We must begin modernizing our infrastructure as quickly as possible to lower our transportation costs and facilitate the exportation of American goods."

National Corn Growers President Ken McCauley urged the president to sign the legislation.

It's unfortunate the administration is threatening [a] veto," McCauley said. "Our infrastructure cannot keep pace with demands and is falling apart. We must upgrade the lock system on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers to compete in the global market place. Our hope is the president will take seriously his responsibility to ensure our nation has a safe and viable infrastructure by signing WRDA into law. Ignoring that responsibility is a dangerous gamble."

Sometimes acronyms take on a life of their own. WRDA, pronounced whir-duh, is short for the Water Resources Development Act, which the Senate approved Monday after years of lobbying by the National Corn Growers Association and grain and barge company representatives.

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