WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for approving a six-year, $325 billion transportation bill.
The bill, which passed with a 363-64 vote after more 100 amendment votes on the House floor, includes vital long-term funding for surface transportation important to moving agricultural grains.
"Multi-year surface transportation legislation providing adequate funding and greater certainty for transportation infrastructure projects is critical to all sectors of U.S. agriculture and their ability to be a competitive supplier in serving domestic and international markets, as well as to the economic well-being of the entire country," said NGFA President Randy Gordon.
The original bill, passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Oct. 22, paid for three years of funding, but an amendment adopted on Nov. 5 would add an additional $40 billion. Lawmakers hope to reconcile the bill with the Senate's version, which also allows for six years of surface transportation authorizations and three years of funding, before the Highway Trust Fund expires Nov. 20.
In a short-term highway bill passed last month, the House addressed positive train control (PTC) by including language to extend the deadline for rail carriers to install PTC technology for three years to Dec. 31, 2018. For more information on PTC, click here.
However, the NGFA and NCGA will continue to advocate for provisions not included in the six-year bill.
“The SAFE Trucking Act would have helped farmers get their product to market more efficiently. While we are disappointed that this amendment was defeated, we are happy to see Congress moving forward on long-term highway funding,” said Chip Bowling, NGCA president.
For instance, the association supported the Safe, Flexible, and Efficient (SAFE) Trucking Act, sponsored by Rep. Reid Ribble, that would have allowed trucks with six axles to transport up to 91,000 pounds on interstate highways. The federal weight limit for Interstate highways has been set at 80,000 pounds since 1982.
"Federal highway truck weight limits currently are lower than most state road weight limits, and this inconsistency presents obstacles to efficient movement of U.S. grains," said NGFA Director of Economics and Government Affairs Max Fisher. "Our organization, as well as the rest of the coalition that supports the amendment, is evaluating how to proceed in our efforts to update truck weight limits on interstate highways."
The NGFA joined several other agricultural organizations in sending a letter to House members outlining several prioritized transportation provisions. These include decreasing the commercial driver's license age for interstate transit through a proposed pilot program and collecting data on key port performance metrics. To read the letter with more information about the NGFA's surface transportation priorities, click here.