Commentary: Antiquated Transportation Laws Hinder Economic Prosperity (Dave Ladd, RDL & Associates)

Throughout the United States trucks move goods and products that drive our economy, including agricultural products that are moving to markets both domestically and abroad. Efficient and cost-effect access to these markets for farmers’ and ranchers is critically important to feeding a hungry world.

Safe, efficient and cost-effective transportation options are necessary for the agriculture sector to move the commodities produced by our farmers and ranchers to market. Unfortunately, public policy has not kept pace with modern realities.

Many trucks on interstates today aren’t even close to being full. Under current law, trucks are allowed to transport no more than 80,000 pounds at a time. These trucks meet the 30-year old federal weight limit but have space left in the trailer.

Because of this antiquated law, the agriculture sector is often forced to transport goods in a number of partially-full trucks. This increases shipping costs and places more vehicles on the road, increasing the risk of accidents.

Modernization of these antiquated standards would allow for the shipment of commodities and agriculture products in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner while greatly reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled.  Within the U.S. more than 90 percent of states allow heavier trucks on state and local roads while federal regulations keep them off the interstate, yet the interstate is the safest and most efficient route for traffic.

The answer may lie in the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013. This legislation would allow a state to authorize a vehicle with a maximum gross weight that exceeds certain federal weight limitations to operate on Interstate Highway System routes in the state if the vehicle is equipped with at least six axles and the weight of any single axle does not exceed 20,000 pounds. In addition, the proposal extends the existing weight-based user fee.

Our farmers and ranchers, as well as consumers, would greatly benefit by allowing states the opportunity to allow more productive trucks to access both state and interstate routes that make the most sense.

The safety and economic benefits of six-axle trucks are not some theoretical exercise. In 2010 Maine and Vermont implemented pilot projects that allowed six-axle trucks full access to their interstate highways. Law enforcement officials, motorists and truckers all agreed that the change made roads noticeably safer and more efficient.

The common-sense changes contained within the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act would enhance movement of agricultural products, thereby allowing farmers and ranchers to be better positioned as they respond to their markets in the future. It not only updates antiquated federal rules to make it easier for trucks to transport goods in a safe and efficient way, it also lowers transportation costs for the agriculture sector.

Dave Ladd served as a Policy Advisor to former United States Senator Rod Grams.  His company, RDL & Associates, assists clients in achieving their legislative and policy objectives via strategic communications, message development and navigation of complex matters of public policy.

Radio Interview: Farm Bill Implementation, Crop Insurance and Regulation

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently a guest on the Linder Farm Network to discuss implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, crop insurance and regulatory issues related to agriculture.

The interview can be accessed here:

The Linder Farm Network:

Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications (via ERS)

The United States addresses agricultural and food policy through a variety of programs, including commodity support, nutrition assistance, and conservation. The primary legal framework for agricultural policy is set through a legislative process that occurs approximately every 5 years.

A new farm law, the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Act), was signed on February 7, 2014, and will remain in force through 2018—and in the case of some provisions, beyond 2018. The 2014 Farm Act makes major changes in commodity programs, adds new crop insurance options, streamlines conservation programs, modifies some provisions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and expands programs for specialty crops, organic farmers, bioenergy, rural development, and beginning farmers and ranchers.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that 80 percent of outlays under the 2014 Farm Act will fund nutrition programs, 8 percent will fund crop insurance programs, 6 percent will fund conservation programs, 5 percent will fund commodity programs, and the remaining 1 percent will fund all other programs, including trade, credit, rural development, research and extension, forestry, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous programs.

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Funding for conservation shifts towards working land conservation under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (via ERS)

Between 2014 and 2018, the Agricultural Act of 2014 calls for mandatory spending on USDA conservation programs to decline by $200 million, or less than one percent of the $28 billion (for the entire 5 year period) that the Congressional Budget Office projects would have been spent if the 2008 Farm Act had continued through 2018. However,  funding will shift from land retirement and conservation easement programs (e.g., Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and predecessors) to working land conservation programs (the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)). Combined funding for EQIP and CSP is projected to account for more than 50 percent of conservation spending during 2014-2018.  These programs (and predecessors) accounted for just over 40 percent of spending during 2008-2013 and 32 percent during 2003-2007.  Although CSP funding will be higher during 2014-2018 than during 2008-2013, a large share will go to servicing CSP contracts signed during 2008-2012.  Under the 2014 Farm Act, USDA can enroll up to 10 million acres per year, down from 12.789 million acres per year under the 2008 Farm Act (2008-2012).

Radio Interview: EPA Efforts to Define “Navigable Waters”

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates was recently a guest of KTLF Farm Director Scott Colombe to discuss efforts by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “navigable waters” via the rule making process.

The interview can be accessed here:

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