A new transportation funding bill signed into law by President Obama includes a major boost for infrastructure projects across the United States, restores $3 billion in cuts to the federal crop insurance program and provides some regulatory fixes for farm vehicle drivers.
The legislation (H.R. 22), Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, provides $305 billion over five years to fund highway, bridge and transit projects. In addition, FAST includes provisions spearheaded by Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) which ensure that states will not lose federal transportation funding when they enact certain state regulations that are slightly less stringent than federal laws.
“Improvements in roads, bridges and rail systems benefit all Americans, including farmers, who depend upon a reliable transportation system to deliver the food they produce to consumers,” said PFB President Rick Ebert. “The law also provides commonsense clarifications affecting farm trucks and drivers operated around the farm. States like Pennsylvania are required to impose the same standards on locally operated farm drivers and trucks as those imposed in federal regulations on commercial trucking companies operating nationwide, or lose millions of dollars in federal transportation funds. H.R. 22 will now allow each state to provide sensible exemptions to farmers and farm truck drivers and alternatives to the rigid and complex federal trucking standards, without fear of losing its share of federal funding.”
The FAST Act also fully restores $3 billion in crop insurance funding (included in the most recent Farm Bill) that was cut as part of a budget agreement reached in October.
“The budget agreement attempted to weaken a crop insurance program that was a major focus of Farm Bill negotiations, which included significant concessions from the farming community. We’re pleased that Congress stepped up to make the program whole again,” added Ebert.
PFB specifically recognized Congressman Bill Shuster, Congressman Lou Barletta and Senator Pat Toomey for their efforts in looking out for the interest of farm families.