ARLINGTON, March 17, 2021 — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) today urged lawmakers to prioritize improvements to U.S. freight transportation in the next surface transportation bill that are environmentally responsible and enhance the economic health of U.S. agriculture.
In a March 17 letter to each member of Congress led by NGFA and signed by dozens of agricultural producer, commodity, agribusiness, food manufacturer and food-related organizations, NGFA and the other groups noted that “Congress can achieve positive benefits for the environment while improving the economic competitiveness of the U.S. agricultural value chain.”
They said any successful surface transportation legislation should include the following crucial elements:
- Ensure rural America is not left behind in any infrastructure package. “Adequate funding, availability of programs and ranking criteria should take into account the unique needs and challenges facing rural communities and our infrastructure,” the letter stated.
- Ensure that exemptions from hours-of-service (HOS) rules provide flexibility for agricultural haulers and farm supply transporters by passing the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act.
- Provide flexibility for types of fuel use.
- Authorize a pilot program to gradually increase federal truck weight limits. Interstate highways have lower truck weight limits than many state roads, creating a barrier to economic and environmental efficiency, the letter noted.
- Establish a tolerance to account for load shifts. “Load shifts during transport can result in tickets for drivers because a portion of the truck becomes heavier than allowed under current law even though the overall truck weight is below the federal truck weight limit of 80,000 pounds,” the groups said.
- Maintain the ability for agricultural haulers to travel at posted local speed limits.
- Maintain the current level of financial responsibility for trucks. “Efforts to increase liability insurance for trucks beyond the current $750,000 level would increase freight costs with no direct safety benefit,” the letter noted.
- Ensure federal and state commercial driving license restrictions are harmonized. There are 49 U.S. states that allow 18-year-olds to obtain a CDL, but until federal law is changed, they cannot drive across state lines until they are 21. The letter recommends that Congress create a pathway for CDL holders aged 18-20 to drive across state lines by incorporating the bipartisan DRIVE Safe Act.
- Increase flexibility of “Restricted CDL” drivers in farm-related service industries to account for weather-related disruptions.
“The next surface transportation bill is an opportunity to enact policies that foster a more environmentally responsible, productive, and economically viable freight transportation system to keep America’s agricultural and manufacturing industries competitive in the world market,” the letter noted.
NGFA, established in 1896, consists of more than 1,000 grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related companies that operate more than 7,000 facilities and handle more than 70 percent of all U.S. grains and oilseeds. Its membership includes grain elevators; feed and feed ingredient manufacturers; biofuels companies; grain and oilseed processors and millers; exporters; livestock and poultry integrators; and associated firms that provide goods and services to the nation’s grain, feed and processing industry. NGFA also consists of 33 affiliated State and Regional Grain and Feed Associations, and NGFA is co-located and has a strategic alliance with North American Export Grain Association, and a strategic alliance with Pet Food Institute.