The American Soybean Association (ASA) and other agricultural groups this week sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees to express support for a continuation of the strong and growing funding levels for inland waterways infrastructure functions performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The past two years have seen increased funding to record levels for both the construction and operations and maintenance accounts of the USACE.For Fiscal Year 2017 the industry supports full funding (the amount supported by revenue derived from the barge fuel fee) of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which is expected to be $390 million as well as a minimum of $3.1 billion for Operations & Maintenance.As the letter indicates, from an agricultural perspective, having access to a modern and efficient inland waterways transportation system is vital to the efficient production, marketing and shipment of agricultural products in international commerce. In 2014, 73 percent of the volume of U.S. agricultural exports and 65 percent of imports were transported via our waterways. Having access to competitive barge transportation also helps discipline rates for other modes of transportation- an important factor given current depressed agricultural commodity values. The full letter can be viewed here.ASA and state soybean associations continue to be active leaders in the efforts to improve inland waterways infrastructure. In addition to the ag coalition letter, ASA, several state soybean associations and multiple soybean industry partners signed a letter led by the Waterways Council urging support for the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), which encompasses the planned upgrades to locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River System. Those letters can be viewed here.The FY2017 waterways funding requests will be among the priorities advocated during the Hill visits on March 15 in Washington, D.C.