Efficient and cost-effective transportation is essential to the operations of wheat producers. Working to make the transportation system function better for our members is a key NAWG priority.
When Congress passed the Staggers Act in 1980 there were more than 40 Class I railroads competing for business. Today, after more than 50 mergers and consolidations, there are seven Class I railroads, and four of them control more than 95 percent of the railroad business. Three control more than 70 percent of grain movement. Consolidation has led states, regions and entire industries to become captive to a single railroad. This level of concentration and lack of competition was never envisioned by Congress.
Many wheat growers continue to face significant issues with both rail rates and service, and NAWG staff works with Members of Congress, rail companies and coalition partners to seek relief and resolution to these issues and others related to rail captivity and capacity.
NAWG supported S. 158, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2011, which was introduced in the 112th Congress by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) as an original cosponsor. NAWG also supported the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act, S. 49 in the 112th Congress, introduced by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).
In the 111th Congress, NAWG was a strong supporter of S. 2889, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2009, which passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in December 2009. For more on rail competition legislation in the last Congress, see this briefer from the 2010 Rail Customer Day fly-in on May 5, 2010.
NAWG has frequently worked on rail policy with the Alliance for Rail Competition (ARC) and Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE). NAWG also participates in BNSF’s Ag Rail Business Council and is looking to engage in similar discussions with leaders of other railroads, including Union Pacific.
NAWG actively follows surface transportation policy being considered by Congress and administered by the Department of Transportation and other agencies. One priority in this process is maintaining the agricultural hours-of-service (ag HOS) exemption, which exempts agricultural carriers from hours-of-service regulations if they are operating only within a 100-mile radius from their central bases of operation. Learn more about this issue in this briefing paper or online at Web site of the Agricultural Education Group (informally known as the ag HOS working group).
NAWG believes the definition of “interstate commerce” should be clarified to ensure that farm trucks operating within state borders, regardless of the final destination of the product, are exempt from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. Learn more about this issue in this briefing paper. In August 2011, NAWG submitted comments to FMCSA elaborating on this issue.
NAWG is very concerned about the safety of producers and others on our nation’s roadways, particularly during the busy harvest season. One resource on this topic is the Manager’s Guide to Safe Trucking During Agricultural Planting and Harvest Season, issued by the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference (AFTC) of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) prior to harvest 2009.
In early November 2007, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override President George W. Bush’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The $23.2 billion package authorizes projects relating to flood damage reduction, navigation, hurricane and storm damage reduction and environmental restoration. The WRDA package is typically reauthorized about every two years, but had not been since 2000. NAWG supported WRDA’s passage and worked with other organizations for a number of years on the issue. For more information on WRDA, please visit the National Waterways Conference, Inc.’s WRDA page.
NAWG is also working with a number of commodity groups and agricultural companies to petition USDA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse the Administration’s decision to limit the availability of important funding used to improve and maintain the Mississippi River.