The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held their first hearing of the year and reiterated that waterways and the Water Resources Development Act would be their first priority for 2013. Likewise, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has held two hearings already this year on the importance of waterways and ports to the national economy.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) also reintroduced the "Realize America's Maritime Promise Act" (RAMP Act), a bill that would ensure that funds collected by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) are used as originally intended – the dredging and maintenance of the nation's ports and waterways. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. ASA strongly supports these measures.
The HMTF is funded via a 0.125% tax on the value of imports and domestic cargo arriving at U.S. Ports with federally maintained harbors and channels. The tax collects $1.3 to $1.6 billion annually. In establishing the HMTF, there was an understanding that revenue generated from the tax would be spent on dredging and channel maintenance. Instead, only roughly half is spent on such projects with the balance spent on other discretionary projects that are unrelated to harbor maintenance.
Last year, a "Sense of Congress" was included in the surface transportation bill (MAP-21), which expressed support for the RAMP Act. Unfortunately, a "Sense of Congress" does not include an enforcement mechanism. As a result, an increase in actual funding for harbor maintenance did not occur.
In a further sign of the growing interest in addressing waterways issues, both the Senate and House saw the announcement of caucuses to coordinate supporters. U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced the establishment of the Mississippi River Caucus, a bipartisan effort to provide greater focus on the importance of theMissississippi River to the nation as a whole. On the House side, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) established the Congressional Maritime Caucus – an effort to raise awareness among members of Congress on a broad range of maritime related topics
Source: American Soybean Association