The Senate voted 79-14 to override President Bush's veto of the $23-billion Water Resources Development Act, ending seven years of frustration for the National Corn Growers Association and other U.S. farm groups.

The Senate action followed by two days a 361-54 vote in the House to reject the veto of the WRDA legislation that supporters said would bring much-needed improvements to the nation's water transportation infrastructure and help expand wildlife habitat programs.

“We used to re-authorize spending for the nation's transportation infrastructure every other year,” said Sen. Rick Durbin, D-Ill., speaking on the Senate floor. “But it's been seven years since we have made any effort to update our system of locks and dams.”

“When it comes to this issue, nothing has been easy,” said NCGA President Ron Litterer. “After almost two decades of work by corn growers, millions of dollars spent on studies, seven years of waiting on the legislative process, a presidential veto and then a veto override, we finally have achieved authorization to modernize seven locks on the Upper Mississippi River System and other important projects.”

Corn growers have been long-time advocates for improvements to our inland waterway system and have fought for passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Litterer said. The American Soybean Association and the National Grain and Feed Association also put in many hours of lobbying to win passage for the bill.

“The WRDA enactment illustrates the power of perseverance,” said Warren Kemper, member of the NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team and board member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. “For nearly a decade, I have worked tirelessly with fellow growers and congressional staff on this legislation. I share this triumph with the countless individuals who waged this battle with me.”

Litterer thanked the members and staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee under the leadership of Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

“This is a great day for the future of flood protection, super-efficient port and river transportation, and environmental restoration,” said Bond. “This success would not have been possible without the broad-based coalition of industry, labor and agriculture led by the corn growers who had the vision and patience to achieve victory.”

Overturning the president's veto is only the beginning of the funding process, said Litterer. The legislation gives a “permission slip” to seek funding through the annual appropriations process.