Highway bill left with a patch; ag interests wait

Highway bill left with a patch; ag interests wait

Senators approve a three-month highway bill; House expected to consider highway legislation following August recess

The Senate on Thursday agreed to a three-month highway bill, a short-term fix that will cover infrastructure spending until Oct. 29.

The bill is a stop-gap for the also-approved six-year bill that will have to wait for further action from House members, who have already left for August recess.

The six-year bill, which authorizes transportation infrastructure spending, carries a host of other amendments and additions. But for now, the stripped-down three-month extension is expected to see President Obama's signature.

Senators approve a three-month highway bill in lieu of six-year fix; House expected to consider highway legislation following August recess

How the highway bill impacts ag
Ag interests expressed concern about the three-month bill on Thursday, as funding for the nation's roads and bridges is a priority for the industry, and a more permanent fix is preferred.

According to the National Corn Growers Association citing USDA data, 80% of the domestic corn crop goes to market via trucks. NCGA notes that by one estimate, America's transportation deficiencies will cost U.S. agriculture $1.3 billion in exports by 2020.

"It's time to get serious about passing a long-term highway funding bill. Every year we don't act, the cost of repairs increase, and the burden on our economy grows," NCGA President Chip Bowling said in a statement. "Senators and Representatives are returning to their home states for August recess. We're asking them to take notice of their roads and bridges, to listen to their constituents, and to come back to Washington with solutions for our nation's infrastructure problem."

Ag groups were supportive of a few desired provisions in the long-term bill, including a permanent extension of the hours of service waiver for livestock haulers, as highlighted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The waiver exempts livestock haulers from a mandatory 30-minute rest break for every eight hours of service, as such a break could compromise livestock health.

Another amendment, which was included in the long-term bill, exempts ag haulers from hazardous material endorsements to haul 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel or less in a service vehicle. The National Sorghum Producers is a supporter of that language.

As the legislation moves over to the House this fall, NCBA said it also hopes an amendment covering heavier trucks will be included. That provision did not appear in the Senate's long-term bill.

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