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Cash Market Moves             07/06 15:21

   Moving America Forward Act: Another Attempt at Funding US Infrastructure

   The House of Representatives recently approved a $1.5 trillion plan aimed at 
rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

Mary Kennedy
DTN Basis Analyst

   A $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal by the House of Representatives was 
approved on July 1, 2020. The partisan H.R.2 Moving America Forward Act will 
address the growing backlog of maintenance and repairs needed for the country's 
roads and bridges. It will also invest in public transit systems, railroads and 
airports; water systems, schools and broadband internet systems.

   In a June 30 press release, the House Committee on Transportation and 
Infrastructure published comments by Peter DeFazio (D-OR), during the Rules 
Committee meeting on H.R.2 The Moving Forward Act. "America's infrastructure is 
in crisis. Our system of roads, bridges, public transit, rail, airports, ports 
and water systems are badly outdated, causing stress and safety hazards for our 
citizens, strain on our economy," said DeFazio.

   "As chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I'm 
particularly focused on investing in our roads, bridges, transit, rail, and 
water systems. In the Moving Forward Act, we do that by modernizing the 
crumbling roads and bridges we already have; investing more than $100 billion 
in transit to put more zero-emission buses on the road, add new routes and 
provide more reliable service; tripling Amtrak's funding; funding the essential 
dredging and upkeep of American harbors, ports and channels to keep cargo 
moving, and investing in new wastewater infrastructure to encourage efficiency 
and affordability, and help communities address stormwater needs, preventing 
pollution in local rivers," added DeFazio. Here is a link to his entire 
testimony which outlines details and other comments: 
https://transportation.house.gov/news/press-releases/chair-defazios-statement-be
fore-the-rules-committee-on-the-moving-forward-act

   However, don't hold your breath on this latest action. According to 
Transportation Today, members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public 
Works (EPW) agreed on the urgency of an infrastructure bill, while conceding a 
rapidly-moving House version stands no chance of being approved by the Senate. 
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate EPW Committee, slammed the 
House bill, saying, "There's nothing bipartisan about it. It's completely 
partisan." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate 
floor that he would not take up the House bill. McConnell scored the House 
package as a "1,000-page cousin of the Green New Deal, masquerading as a 
highway bill," during his remarks on July 1. The White House threatened to veto 
it if it were to be passed by both chambers, according to Transportation Today.

   The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the House of Representatives, 
stating it cannot support the partisan Moving America Forward Act and urges 
bipartisan solutions to address the nation's urgent infrastructure needs. Neil 
Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber 
of Commerce, stated in the letter, "With historic unemployment and tremendous 
unmet infrastructure needs, now is clearly a time for bold and ambitious 
action. There is nothing bold, however, about voting on a bill that does not 
and will not have the bipartisan support needed to become law."

   Here is a link to the full letter to the House: 
https://www.uschamber.com/letters-congress/us-chamber-letter-hr-2-the-moving-ame
rica-forward-act

   WINDOW IS CLOSING FOR SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATION ON INFRASTRUCTURE

   Here we go again. Another move of many during the past four years to boost 
funds for the nation's crumbling infrastructure. But now the clock is ticking 
as Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST) passed in 2015 is set to 
expire on September 30, 2020. The FAST Act authorized funding to improve U.S. 
surface transportation infrastructure, including our roads, bridges and public 
transit systems for fiscal years 2016 -- 2020. Since the FAST Act, 
reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs is a major priority 
for the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this Congress.

   "I am encouraged any time infrastructure receives attention among 
policymakers," said Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director Soy Transportation 
Coalition, in an email to DTN. "However, the reality in Washington, DC, is that 
there is a limited window of opportunity to achieve meaningful legislation on 
infrastructure and other areas of importance. It is therefore essential that 
both Democrats and Republicans work together on the front end to develop a 
transportation bill that has the potential of becoming passed.

   "Our nation's state departments of transportation strongly urge Congress and 
the Administration to replace the current FAST Act law with a new five-year 
bill prior to Sept. 30 so that states can have the confidence and 
predictability from the federal government in order to proceed with their 
specific transportation plans. We join in this call," said Steenhoek.

   The Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of rehabilitating five of the 
eight locks and dams along the Illinois River. The Illinois River is one of the 
key arteries for the agricultural supply chain. According to the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, in 2019 over 6.5 million metric tons of down bound 
soybeans and grain passed through LaGrange Lock and Dam, the final Illinois 
River lock before the confluence with the Mississippi River.

   Here is more information in my June story on the Illinois River closure: 
https://www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/AG/blogs/market-matters-blog/blog-post/202
0/06/15/five-lock-dam-closures-illinois

   "It does not require a professional engineer to be able to diagnose that it 
is not a matter of 'if' there would be future mechanical failures at some of 
these lock and dam sites. It is more a matter of 'when' they occur. The 
crumbling concrete and widespread rust at a number of these sites, particularly 
LaGrange Lock and Dam, are evident to even a casual observer," said Steenhoek. 

   "We appreciate the Army Corps of Engineers for providing advanced notice of 
this work so that agricultural and other shippers could develop alternative 
arrangements during this period when the river is essentially closed for barge 
transportation. We also appreciate how this work will occur concurrently, 
rather than subsequently, so that the length of the river closure will be as 
brief as possible. Unpredictable spring weather prohibited the work from 
getting scheduled too early in the year. The barge shipping surge due to the 
fall soybean and grain harvest motivates having the work completed as early as 
possible," added Steenhoek.

   I am trying once again to feel positive about this latest attempt at an 
infrastructure bill, but my common sense and past history of failed attempts 
makes me remain a pessimist. Each time I look at some of the reports of the 
dangers lurking on our river system and bridges, I shudder at the thought of 
another failed bridge crumbling apart like the I-35 bridge in downtown 
Minneapolis. Many of us who were just leaving work on that day saw the 
aftermath of the collapse with our own eyes. I will never forget the 
catastrophe that took place that evening of Aug. 1, 2007, that forever changed 
the lives of the 145 survivors and the families of the 13 people who died.

   We need the federal government to get along and to come up with a plan to 
save our bridges and rivers and all U.S. infrastructure before, God forbid, we 
have another disastrous bridge collapse.

   "Time wasted today is often not recovered tomorrow," concluded Steenhoek. 

   Here is a link to America's most endangered rivers of 2020: 
https://endangeredrivers.americanrivers.org/

   Here is a link to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report 
card, which also breaks out grades for each state in all infrastructure 
categories: https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

   Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

   Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn




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