The National Corn Growers Association, supporters of the legislation, said the changes in the bill were critical to American agriculture and the U.S. economy.
"Every year more than a billion tons of domestic commerce, valued at more than $300 billion, travels through our lock and dam system," NCGA President Pam Johnson explained in a statement. She estimated that one billion bushels of grain, or roughly 60% of all grain exports, move to markets via the inland waterways each year.
"We can't afford to allow such an integral part of our value chain continue to deteriorate," she noted.
While the groups generally expressed support, the Corn Growers also suggested one addition – a barge fuel tax, which would improve the revenue stream for the Inland Waterway Trust Fund. The IWTF provides support for lock and dam updates and other upgrades.
According to the Illinois Corn Growers Association, without the industry-approved user fee, it will be 2070 before many repairs and upgrades could be complete at the LaGrange, Ill., lock and dam, for example.
"From a procedure standpoint, the additional increase of the user fee should originate in the House Ways and Means Committee. Without increased funding, we're looking at two more generations of waterways users dealing with this crumbling infrastructure," ICGA President Paul Taylor noted in a statement.
Illinois is home to eight lock and dam systems on the Mississippi River.