During last evening’s State of the Union address, President Trump encouraged a bipartisan effort to address the needs of the nation’s multi-modal transportation system.
"While we are very appreciative of the inclusion of transportation infrastructure during the President’s remarks, we are particularly hopeful that this intention will soon become an outcome," says Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.
"It is time for infrastructure to move from the on deck circle to the batter’s box," he continues. "We encourage the President and Congress to enhance not just the transportation needs of urban America, but also the needs of rural America. The temptation among our elected leaders is to regard transportation challenges in terms of urban congestion or long commute times. While this is most certainly a frustrating reality for many Americans that should be addressed, we must also be attentive to the addressing the challenges of moving freight, including agricultural freight."
Given the current anxiety and challenges confronting agriculture, in general, and the soybean industry, in particular, due in part to the trade friction with China and other international customers, the federal government has been exploring opportunities to moderate the negative consequences being experienced by farmers, says Steenhoek. The U.S. Department of Agriculture aid package was a result of this effort.
"As the challenges confronting agriculture continue, I think it very appropriate to continue this discussion and impress upon our elected officials that, as the federal government continues to explore what tools it has in its toolbox to assist farmers during this turbulent environment, may infrastructure investment and policy be regarded as one of the more effective tools at their disposal," he says. "Devoting resources and effort toward transportation infrastructure will not eliminate all the challenges confronting the industry, but it can certainly chip away at it."
NAWG CEO Chandler Goule says wheat farmers are pleased to hear President Trump discuss the need to invest in America’s infrastructure as well.
"With any infrastructure legislation, we hope the President and Congress prioritize the critical needs of rural infrastructure," he says. "This includes making improvements to transportation infrastructure, expanding access to broadband, and updating rural agricultural research facilities.
Goule also encourages the President and Congress to make sure to preserve smart trade deals that keep American wheat producers in a strong position. This includes remaining in NAFTA until the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement is in place and moving forward with new bi-lateral deals, he says.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall also hopes bipartisan unity can be achieved.
"The bipartisan passage of the farm bill last year shows that our elected leaders can come together and achieve great things for our country," he says."
Soy Transportation Coalition’s “Top 10 Most Wanted List” of Transportation Priorities:
- Maintenance & rehabilitation of locks & dams to significantly reduce the potential for unexpected, widespread, & prolonged failure. Priority should be devoted to ensuring the reliability of locks & dams along the nation’s inland waterways.
- Dredging the lower Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico to 50 ft.
- Ensuring the Columbia River shipping channel from Portland, Oregon, to the Pacific Ocean is maintained at no less than 43 ft.
- Permit six axle, 91,000 lbs. semis to operate on the interstate highway system.
- Increase the federal fuel tax by ten cents a gallon & index the tax to inflation. Ensure rural areas receive proportionate, sufficient funding from the fuel tax increase.
- Provide greater predictability & reliability of funding for the locks & dams along the inland waterway system.
- Provide block grants to states to replace the top twenty most critical rural bridges.
- Provide grants to states to implement rural bridge load testing projects to more accurately diagnose which bridges are sufficient & which bridges are deficient.
- Ensure full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for port improvement initiatives.
- Permanent (or at least multi-year) extension of the short line railroad tax credit.
For more information, visit soytransportation.org.