On May 31, 2012, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) submitted a letter to the House and Senate members of the conference committee of the surface transportation bill regarding the final Senate-House conference agreement.
In the letter, ARA addressed the following essential priorities included in the legislation that directly impact ARA members and their rural communities:
- Transportation of Agricultural Commodities and Farm Supplies: ARA supports including a modified Section 32101(d) Transportation of Agricultural Commodities and Farm Supplies of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” or MAP-21 9S. 1813) in any final Senate-House conference agreement. A similar provision was included in H.R. 7.
- Hazardous Materials Transportation: ARA supports the Senate and House legislative efforts to reauthorize the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA). The HMTA is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOTs) source of authority to oversee the safe, secure and efficient transportation of these materials, which are critical to the health of the Nation.
- Electronic On-Board Recorders: ARA opposes a provision included in the Senate bill that would mandate electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) on every single one of the millions of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) in use across the United States. ARA believes this creates an unnecessary expansion of the current regulations and would substantially increase the financial burdens on the nation’s agricultural retailers and distributors.
- RAMP Act: ARA supports the inclusion of the Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act (HR 104) in any final Senate-House conference agreement. This proposal, which was included in the House-passed version of the surface transportation bill (H.R. 4348), would ensure that all funds collected as part of the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and deposited into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) are to be used for the operation and maintenance of U.S. ports, waterways and harbors.
- Surface Transportation Board: ARA supports provisions included in the Senate Bill that would take meaningful steps in the right direction to reform the Surface Transportation Board (STB). These freight rail provisions are modest steps that are needed to ensure a more equal balance between shipper and carrier interests in rail policy deliberations at the STB and make the agency more accountable, transparent and effective.
- Improved Daytime and Nighttime Visibility of Agricultural Equipment: ARA supports the Senate bill’s provision (Sec. 31601 of S. 1813) that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), after consultation with representatives of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and appropriate federal agencies, to promulgate a rule to improve the daytime and nighttime visibility of agricultural equipment that may be operated on the public road.
- Pension Funding Stabilization: ARA supports efforts by conferees to address pension funding issues being faced by many American businesses. The Senate’s Pension Funding Stabilization provision (Sec. 40312) would help free up billions of dollars for businesses to reinvest back into their companies and the economy by making necessary interest rate adjustments and allow for the reduction of tax free contributions to pension plans.
Click here to view the full letter.
The temporary extension of the current Surface Transportation Bill expires June 30, 2012. If the conference does not reach an agreement by this point, another short term extension will be passed.
Click here to share these priorities with your members of Congress.
ARA will continue to closely monitor this legislation and update ARA members on its progress. For questions, please contact Richard Gupton at Richard@aradc.org or 202-595-1699.