ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, US — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is encouraging lawmakers to support draft legislation to reauthorize the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) and address insufficient, unreliable freight rail service in the US agricultural value chain.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, and Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey, both Democrats, have drafted the Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act, which includes several updates that would support agricultural shippers. The most recent STB Reauthorization expired almost two years ago. 

“The status quo is not working for agricultural shippers and consumers, and we urge the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to work together to address this significant supply chain problem,” noted the NGFA and 88 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group (ATWG) in a July 26 letter to committee leaders. The ATWG is a group of associations that represent farmers, ranchers, food and beverage manufacturers, processors, package suppliers, farm supply dealers and agricultural product marketers.

Among other provisions, the Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act would instruct STB to create rules for shippers to charge demurrage on railroads, providing a way for NGFA members to incentivize railroads to perform in the same way railroads incentivize their customers. The bill also would further define the common carrier obligation to establish minimum rail service standards. 

“With wheat harvest in progress and fall harvest approaching, agricultural stakeholders need ourpartners in freight railto be successful in delivering adequate and resilient service,” the letter stated. “We urge the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to continue to collaborate, introduce and promptly consider a policy solution to deter future rail service failures.”