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NGFA Commends Senate Confirmations to STB

Continued STB modernization will help farmers, agribusinesses, and manufacturers be more competitive in the global marketplace

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The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the Senate for confirming the nominations of Robert Primus and Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Nov. 18.

Both nominees were recommended by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on a bipartisan basis, noted the NGFA and 54 other agricultural organizations in a Nov. 19 letter to Senate leaders.

Both nominees were confirmed by a voice vote.

“Both have the mental acuity, independence and dedication to serve, and will work well with existing Board members to achieve the agency’s statutory mission and role, which is critical to railroads, rail users, and the American economy,” the letter noted.

“The current dynamics of the rail marketplace underscore the need for fair, impartial, and knowledgeable Board members, who are essential to providing effective oversight,” NGFA and other organizations wrote. “Thoughtful Board members also are needed to make progress on practical regulatory reforms that improve STB oversight of freight railroads.

“Continued STB modernization –- initiated by Congressional enactment of the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 and pursued under the leadership of STB Chairman Ann Begeman -– will help farmers, agribusinesses, and manufacturers be more competitive in the global marketplace,” the NGFA and other organizations said.

The STB Reauthorization Act of 2015 expanded the agency to five commissioners from its previous three. Under the law, there can be no more than three STB members from a single political party, with the majority and the chairmanship held by the party that controls the White House. Primus and Schultz’s confirmations mean that the STB will be at its congressionally authorized size of five members for the first time since enactment of the 2015 law.

Given the impending departure of Chairman Ann Begeman, whose term expires on Dec. 31, the letter noted it was particularly important to confirm the nominees to preserve a sufficient number of STB members to enable it to continue functioning efficiently.

Schultz, a Republican whose nomination previously has been approved twice by the Senate committee, most recently served as associate general counsel for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) – Philadelphia’s commuter rail system.

Primus, a Democrat, most recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Nanette Barragάn, D-Calif. A native of Madison, N.J., he spent 20 years as a staff member for former Rep. Mike Capuano, D-Mass., four of those as his legislative director and the last 16 as chief of staff while Capuano served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and was ranking member of its Railroad, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee.

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