Conference committee reports highway bill

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2015 - After three weeks of negotiations, a conference committee has agreed on final language of a bill to reauthorize federal highway funding through FY 2020, following more than 30 short-term extensions of the program.

House and Senate transportation leaders announced the agreement on a five-year $305 billion bill Tuesday afternoon. In a joint statement, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Bill Shuster, R-Penn., and ranking member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla, and ranking member Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the bill “a vital investment in our country” that “provides long-term certainty for states and local governments, and good reforms and improvements to the programs that sustain our roads, bridges, transit, and passenger rail system.”

Lets Talk Food

The bill, Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (H.R. 22), was reported with some agricultural provisions intact, primarily a section that will allow for higher weight limits when transporting fluid milk. A compromise was reached on a pilot program included in the House bill that would have put drivers as young as 18 behind the wheel, limiting the program to young veterans.

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Outside of those two programs, many provisions sought by agricultural stakeholders such as an amendment from Wisconsin
Republican Reid Ribble that would have increased truck weight limits and others that dealt with rest times for trucking livestock were ultimately not addressed in the conference report.

The two chambers have until Friday to send a bill to President Barack Obama's desk before the current deadline for highway funding expires.

 

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