Ag groups state priorities for highway bill fixes
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2015 - A group of 28 agricultural organizations sent a letter to the House of Representatives today stating their objectives in the transportation funding process, which has become a political football most recently punted at the end of July.
In the letter, the groups “strongly urge passage of multiyear surface transportation legislation” that would “provide adequate funding and greater certainty” for infrastructure projects currently in limbo. Highway funding has received short-term extensions more than 30 times on Capitol Hill, and critics point to the uncertainty as a contributing factor to the present state of America's infrastructure.
The groups also make the case that the cost of food could be directly affected by a more reliable transportation system.
“A large portion of the consumer cost of food is directly attributable to the cost of transportation throughout the food supply chain,” the letter reads. “Strong infrastructure, such as highways and bridges, are hugely important in keeping U.S. agriculture competitive and consumer food costs down.”
Specifically, the groups request:
- A delay in the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), a system capable of stopping trains in emergency situations. The letter states that some railroad companies “have indicated that they may be unable to move important crop inputs such as anhydrous ammonia on lines that do not have PTC installed.” The current deadline for PTC implementation is Dec. 31.
- Flexibility in certain trucking regulations such as weight limits; lowering the age limit for driver with a commercial driver's license to cross state lines to 18; hazardous material exemptions for farmers and custom harvesters, and elimination of the 30-minute break required every eight hours specifically for truck drivers when transporting livestock and poultry.
- Confirmation on congressional intent on covered farm vehicles language, which the groups say is being misinterpreted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
- Better metrics to gauge problems at ports, specifically in relation to labor disputes.
- Reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Board.
The letter was signed by the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Corn Refiners Association, Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Potato Council, National Sunflower Association, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute, North American Millers' Association, Soy Transportation Coalition, The Fertilizer Institute, United Fresh Produce Association, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, U.S. Canola Association, and U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.
The House and Senate both return to Washington next week after a month-long August recess. The Senate passed a long-term highway bill before adjourning, and the House is expected to work on companion legislation in the coming weeks. Under an extension passed in July, highway funding will expire Oct. 29.
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