WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) sent a letter on Sept. 3 to members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to pass multi-year surface transportation legislation that provides adequate funding and certainty for transportation infrastructure projects.
"A large portion of the consumer cost of food is directly attributable to the cost of transportation throughout the food supply chain," states the letter, which was signed by almost every major agricultural organization. "Strong infrastructure, such as highways and bridges, are hugely important in keeping U.S. agriculture competitive and consumer food costs down."
Congress is attempting to address a budget shortfall in transportation funding estimated at $16 billion per year. Although the Senate passed a six-year highway bill in July, House members' resistance to the plan meant that Congress instead passed an $8 billion three-month extension of infrastructure spending before leaving for August recess.
NGFA notes that while all modes of transportation are important to agriculture, trucks move almost all agricultural commodities from the field-to-warehouse and further transport 64% of grains and oilseeds from warehouse-to-end user.
In a long-term funding bill, NGFA asks the House to pass legislation focused on several key trucking issues, including support for the Safe Trucking Act that would allow states to increase truck weight limits on their interstate highways; a consistent minimum commercial driver's license age limit of 18; and further examination of proposed motor carrier regulations.
The association further asks that the House pass reauthorization for the Surface Transportation Board, the regulatory agency that oversees railroads.
Additionally highlighted in the letter is that some railroads are struggling to meet the deadline to install Positive Train Control (PTC), which allows a computer to take control of a train in an emergency. Without an extension of the Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to have operational PTC, some rail lines will be unable to move important crop inputs such as anhydrous ammonia.
The inability to move anhydrous ammonia by rail after the end of the year "would cause fertilizer manufacturing facilities to stop production, leaving farmers without enough fertilizer to use during the narrow planting seasons across the country," states the letter.