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Missouri's rural developments and waterways are receiving national recognition and support.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Missouri one of six Marine Highway Project designations around the country, and the U.S. Senate is moving forward with funding for numerous agricultural projects.

The Missouri Department of Transportation, along with AGRIServices of Brunswick, completed an application to create a Container-on-Barge Project on the Missouri River to expand options for transporting goods along the waterway.

AGRIServices of Brunswick will begin transporting agricultural products from central Missouri to international markets in the Gulf of Mexico as early as next year.

The Container-on-Barge Project will use available rail containers, which the state has an abundance of, to move goods produced in Missouri at low costs.

"The Container-on-Barge service builds redundancy in the freight supply chain between the Missouri River, Norfolk Southern and highways, making sure products get to market in the most cost-effective way," said Lucy Fletcher, business development manager at AGRIServices at Brunswick. "Each mode working together builds capacity needed for the increased freight volume anticipated in the next few years."

The designation marks a first for MODOT, which joined a list of 51 designations since America's Marine Highway Program was started in 2010.

Tom Waters, former chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, said the new Missouri River service will allow more goods to be shipped, opening highways and rail lines to increase their capacity as well.

"Container-on-Barge has the potential to be transformational for cost effective and efficient movement of freight, broadening the commodities that can be shipped," Waters said. "We are proud of the collaborative public-private partnership to successfully receive this designation."

The Missouri Department of Agriculture also has a hand in the project after it provided AGRIServices of Brunswick a grant to develop the application.

Chris Chinn, Department of Agriculture director, said the services also allow Missouri farmers and businesses to be more competitive on the global market.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said Missouri's greatest competitive advantage is its location.

"This designation will allow our state to further capitalize on that advantage by expanding freight capacity on the Missouri River getting more goods to more markets more efficiently," Blunt said.

Blunt also recently announced several state agricultural priorities were included in funding bills approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Among those priorities is $3.6 billion in funding for agricultural research at University of Missouri, Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University and Lincoln University.

Increased funding for Farm Service Agency loan programs, conservation operations and rural development are also priorities included in the legislation.

The federal legislation also includes support for water and energy developments.

It provides funding for flood control feasibility studies in Chariton County, Holt County and Jefferson City, as well as $47.4 million for the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Program, and construction or updates to locks and dams along waterways around the country, among other measures.

"By investing in rural broadband as well as water and electric infrastructure, the bill supports programs that will help boost economic growth and improve the quality of life in towns and cities," Blunt said. "I'll continue working with my colleagues to ensure these priorities get the funding they need in the final FY2022 appropriations bill."

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