On the burden passed to farmers…

“Look at all the nation’s ports and the (assessments) are being paid by the owner of the merchandise being shipped. The money is (available) to do the dredging but it isn’t being done. Again, that has led to short-loading ships and increased costs to ship the products.”

Those increased costs “are borne by the farmer. Failure to address this will result in a loss of at least 10 cents, or more, per bushel for farmers.

“When you start looking at export initiatives, our exports grew by 18 percent last year to reach $147 billion. We expect a $42 billion to $45 billion positive balance of trade with ag goods alone in the next year. But all this hinges on our ability to efficiently and properly goods and services.”

On inland waterways…

“Many of the locks and dam structures -- along the Ohio River, the Missouri River, the Mississippi and other waterways -- are reaching, or have passed, their 50-year life span. They must be maintained.”

This is a basic issue of economics, says Strain. Secondarily, there are safety factors to consider.

“Homeland security comes into play with the grounding of vessels. And what would happen if one of the vessels breached and the contents of which – from petrochemicals to all other sorts of products – spill into our rivers and estuaries?

On barges, “we’re moving coal, iron ore, oil, chemicals, all types of ag and forestry products. Basically, the industrial and agricultural might combined depends on the efficient use of waterways.”

On efficiencies and savings…

Using waterways, “we can move a ton of material 576 miles on a gallon of diesel. That’s efficiency we can’t get anywhere else. One 15 tow barge is the equivalent of 1,050 trucks or more than 260 railcars.

“What we’re saying is ‘take the money being collected – the sufficient money – from users of the ships and pay for the maintenance of harbors and dredging. … We’ll have more than enough money, as was promised in the original Harbor Maintenance and Trust Fund, to pay for all necessary projects and then some.”

Why won’t they use the trust fund monies to dredge? What’s the hold up?

“That money is being used elsewhere in the government. This bill says the dollars collected must be used for the dedicated purposes for which it was collected.”

Any pushback at the hearing?

“The only pushback regarded a portion of the tax. Basically, if you have a ship that offloads and reloads on another ship to go on inland waterways, you have to pay the tax twice. That’s a $2 million inequity but it can be corrected very simply.

“Another issue is some ports pay into the fund but don’t receive any money. That’s because they don’t have to dredge because they have a stone base.

“Other areas receive more (from the fund) than they pay in. However, that has to be looked at in terms of the entire nation’s economy. All ships rise together. Collectively, this is still the United State of America – one country – and the money should be utilized where needed. If we use this money properly, there’s enough for all projects.”

For more, see here.