When the budget deal was announced earlier this year, it was clear that one provision needed fixing – at least from agriculture’s perspective. A $3 billion cut in crop insurance. And it appears that the problem was remedied late Thursday when the Senate approved the conference report on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act.
In fact the final bill is called Fixing America’s Surface Transportation and now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.
FAST itself has provisions that benefit agriculture including road and bridge construction funds, and road maintenance funds as well. Groups like the American Soybean Association have been supporting the legislation, and the reversal of the crop insurance cut is an added benefit. In a press statement, Wade Cowan, ASA president remarks:
“The cut to crop insurance was a dealbreaker for soybean farmers and we’re very relieved to see these cuts reversed. Soybean farmers across the country rely on crop insurance in times of extreme weather to ensure they can stay in business to farm in the coming year. An ill-advised $3 billion in cuts would have severely hobbled the program, and we’re happy to see them reversed.”
The Brownfield, Texas, farmer adds that the group is being vigilant for other “attacks” in upcoming budget discussions. “ASA will continue our opposition to any attempt to cut the farm bill programs in the budgeting process,” he notes. “These programs seem to be low-hanging fruit to lawmakers who don’t understand how important they are to the nation’s food producers.”
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers weighed in on the measure, which benefits both ag and construction members. Association President Dennis Slater issued a statement after passage noting that the FAST Act will offer five years of stability to the surface transportation programs, while boosting infrastructure investment.
The bill also had another provisions, as Slater points out: “This legislation is doubly important for manufacturers, though, because it also provides for long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Ex-Im is a vital tool for manufacturers, and the FAST Act’s reinstatement…represents a triumph of common sense.”
A key issue Slater did raise about the FAST Act is that there is no “reliable and sustainable funding source” for the measure. Instead, the program will be supported by budgetary offsets.
Grain group offers insight - >>>
The National Grain and Feed Association also responded to the news, noting that the program offers many provisions which they summed up:
* 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 the Department of Transportation 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.
Add in the returned funding to crop insurance and the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, and the FAST Act definitely about making fixes.