he American Farm Bureau Federation and the Port of Oakland today called for much needed improvements in port infrastructure. Leaders from AFBF’s Trade Advisory Committee and Port officials are encouraging Congress to better utilize money within the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

“There are no trucks or trains to Asia,” said TAC Chair and Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus. “In order to reach those consumers and compete in the world market, we must invest in port infrastructure.”

The Port of Oakland serves as a premier export gateway for agricultural products originating in California and throughout the nation. In 2012 approximately $6.74 billion in agricultural products were exported through the Oakland seaport to overseas customers. This represents about 47.7% of the total 2012 value of exports leaving the Port of Oakland.

Agriculture is very trade dependent. Last year more than $141 billion of agricultural goods were exported. Yet, U.S. port and waterways infrastructure is decades behind international competitors due to lack of funding. For example, only about half of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is currently being allocated toward port infrastructure.

“It is vital to the national economy for the federal government to make much needed investments into US port infrastructure,” said Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle. “The Port of Oakland is the fifth busiest container port in the US and supports 73,000 jobs locally and 827,000 jobs across the country. Ports need federal investment to improve infrastructure in order to be globally competitive and remain job-creating powerhouses.”

Updating America’s marine infrastructure is essential for agriculture to serve domestic markets and compete internationally. That’s why passage of a WRRDA bill is so critically important. WRRDA not only makes necessary reforms to secure America’s competitiveness well into the future, but ensures that our grocery shelves are stocked and our lights stay on.

AFBF’s Trade Advisory Committee is currently touring the West and Pacific Northwest looking at ports and transportation infrastructure.