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Trump Calls for Modernization of Inland Waterways

U.S. river traffic, key to farm exports, relies “on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half a century old” and needs a 21st-century update, said President Trump in pushing for a massive public works program. By coincidence, Trump spoke in the same city — Cincinnati — and used the same backdrop — barges on the Ohio River — that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue did a month ago when he announced a reorganization of USDA.

The administration would use $200 million of federal money to leverage a total of $1 trillion to invest “into our crumbling systems,” says a White House fact sheet. Rural infrastructure would be one of four categories for work. “Rural America will receive grants to rebuild crippled bridges, roads, and waterways.” The administration says it will slash regulations and speed up the approval process for construction.

“It is time to rebuild our country, to bring back our jobs, to restore our dream,s and, yes, to put America First,” Trump said.

“Countless American industries, businesses, and jobs depend on rivers, runways, roads, and rails that are in dire and even desperate condition,” said the president. “We cannot accept these conditions any longer.”

The White House provided few details of its proposal. Its fact sheet said, “Government will get out of the way to allow state and local governments to succeed at meeting their unique challenges. Only one fifth of infrastructure spending comes from the federal government; the vast majority comes from states, localities, and the private sector.”

An estimated 575 million tons of cargo worth $229 billion are shipped on rivers and waterways annually, including 60% of grain destined for export through Gulf of Mexico ports.

“We especially appreciate the president’s interest in inland waterways and in the unique infrastructure challenges facing rural areas,” said the National Corn Growers Association. The Waterways Council, representing carriers, shippers, port authorities, and trade groups, applauded Trump “for committing his vast building experience to modernizing the inland waterways.”

The administration’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018 would eliminate USDA’s rural water and sewer programs and scale back on community facilities and business support.

To watch a WCPO-TV video of Trump’s speech, click here.

The White House fact sheet on infrastructure is available here.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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