House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday to a $305 billion highway bill, which includes several provisions that will benefit members of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA).
"The House and Senate conferees' agreement on multi-year surface transportation legislation will provide greater certainty for transportation infrastructure projects that are critical to all sectors of U.S. agriculture," said NGFA Director of Economics and Government Relations Max Fisher. "We urge Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible, as it is vital for U.S. agriculture and its ability to be a competitive supplier in serving domestic and international markets, as well as to the economic well-being of the entire country."
Lawmakers must pass the bill by Friday, when current federal highway funding expires. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or "FAST Act," includes the repeal of the $3 billion in cuts to crop insurance companies that lawmakers included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.
The agreement also includes a port performance statistics program. "Keeping track of port performance data, at least at the nation's busiest ports, should help draw attention to the damages of port disputes before they impact the entire supply chain," Fisher said.
While the bill does not include NGFA's priority provision--one that would have allowed trucks with six axles to transport up to 91,000 pounds on Interstate highways--it does include the following:
- A national highway freight policy with the express goal of strengthening U.S. economic competiveness
- A national multimodal freight network that will focus federal policy on the most strategic freight assets and assist in directing resources to improve multimodal freight network performance.
- Minimum Financial Responsibility - requires DOT to consider prior to issuing a rule the potential impacts of raising the minimum financial responsibility above $750,000 on the motor carrier industry, safety, etc.
- Port performance freight statistics program
- Hours-of-Service Rule for Livestock and Poultry - Permanently removes the 30-minute break after eight hours-of-service requirement, which will avoid unnecessary discomfort for livestock and poultry during transport.
The NGFA looks forward to the FAST Act's passage, as well as continuing to advocate for the transportation needs of U.S. agriculture.