Dec 04, 2015
The American Soybean Association (ASA) greeted news this evening that the Senate approved the conference report on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, more familiarly known as the Highway Bill. The final legislation is formally titled the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and will now head to President Barack Obama for signature.
Providing funding certainty for road and bridge construction and maintenance was a priority for ASA in the legislation, as well as reversing the $3 billion in cuts to crop insurance that were included in the bipartisan budget deal passed in October.
"The cut to crop insurance was a dealbreaker for soybean farmers and we're very relieved to see these cuts reversed," said Wade Cowan, ASA's president and a farmer from Brownfield, Texas. "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."
While pleased with the results of the vote today, Cowan noted that the association would be on the lookout for similar attacks in coming budget discussions.
"ASA will continue our opposition to any attempt to cut the farm bill programs in the budgeting process," he said. "These programs seem to be low-hanging fruit to lawmakers who don't understand how important they are to the nation's food producers, and we will continue to fight to make sure they stay whole. We thank Chairmen Roberts and Conaway and Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson for their continued defense of the farm safety net, and for securing the fix for this most recent grab at the crop insurance program."
With regard to transportation, the multi-year reauthorization provides certainty for state and local governments to maintain and move forward with transportation projects. It provides new flexibilities and streamlines environmental review and permitting processes aimed at accelerating projects. The bill also establishes new national freight policies and programs aimed at improving freight movement and strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness.
Unfortunately the bill fails to enable states to allow increased truck weights on federal interstates, after the defeat of an amendment offered by Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin that would have provided states the option to increase truck weight limits on federal interstates.