The American Soybean Association (ASA) applauded the Senate’s overwhelming approval of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conference report. Monday night, the Senate voted 81-12 to approve the ASA-supported legislation, which sends it to the White House for the President’s signature. ASA has long championed WRDA legislation because it is vital to improve and modernize locks and dams that transport soybeans, particularly on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.The House approved the WRDA legislation in August in a vote of 381-40. “Soybean growers are eager to see this legislation put to work,” said ASA President John Hoffman, a soybean grower from Waterloo, Iowa. “These much-needed improvements to the Mississippi and Illinois waterways are essential to the economic well-being and international competitiveness of U.S. soybeans.”Hoffman gives credit to the many soybean growers who have joined with ASA in communicating the importance of the WRDA legislation to Congress. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Kit Bond (R-MO) are among the Senate leaders on the legislation. In the House, Representatives Jim Oberstar (D-MN), John Mica (R-FL), Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) have worked tirelessly to see WRDA pass.“This legislation has benefited from strong bipartisan support to achieve passage in the House and Senate,” Hoffman said. “We urge President Bush to quickly sign WRDA into law.”More than 75 percent of U.S. soybean exports move to world ports via the upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems. While U.S. waterways remain the most economical and environmentally friendly way to move U.S. soybeans to foreign and domestic markets, more than 50 percent of U.S. locks and dams have aged beyond their life cycle and many are crumbling. Many are unable to handle today’s barges that are twice as long as when the system was built in the 1930s. Because many barges must be split, higher transportation costs, lower commodity prices and fewer international sales for U.S. farmers occur.WRDA legislation will provide funding for construction of seven new locks and other critical improvements on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. In addition, it includes funding for many important ecosystem restoration projects along the rivers.