Key leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation wrote their colleagues this week asking for opposition to a cloture vote scheduled for Tuesday on the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009 (S. 146).
S. 146, introduced and championed by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), would eliminate a longstanding railroad exemption to antitrust laws and would bring railroad mergers and rate changes under the purview of the Justice Department. Debate on the motion to invoke cloture is scheduled for Monday, when the Senate resumes session from the Memorial Day recess.
While the bill addresses one concern of the captive shipper industry – the rail industry’s exemption from antitrust laws – it does not include comprehensive reform as would a bill being put together by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a signatory of the Dear Colleague distributed this week.
Rockefeller, who has been an advocate of rail shippers for more than 20 years, is looking to move a bill that addresses several key areas of concern to the wheat industry that are not necessarily addressed in Kohl’s bill, including reforming the Surface Transportation Board (STB); ensuring adequate competition; and establishing workable dispute resolution mechanisms.
NAWG has been active for many years in efforts to develop and pass legislation that would bring about rail reform and meaningful relief for rail shippers and has been supportive of both Kohl’s and Rockefeller’s work on this issue.
The Association believes meaningful reform and relief can be best accomplished through passage of comprehensive rail legislation focused on reforming the STB; improving competitive conditions in the industry; and providing meaningful access to rate and service relief mechanisms.
NAWG continues to work with Senate staff and other agricultural groups to highlight the importance of wheat grower rail priorities, and is urging the champions of both efforts to reach an agreement on a comprehensive rail package that is beneficial to all agricultural shippers.