Transportation & Broadband Infrastructure
Rural America’s infrastructure needs serious investment. Home to 60 million people and playing a vital role in the U.S. economy, rural America contains much of the country’s natural resources, and is the primary source of food, fiber and energy. Connectivity remains critical to supporting the competitive advantage that rural communities bring to the economy.
- Support for an increase in federal transportation funding and a recognition of the unique needs that rural roads and bridges present to ensure their eligibility for federal grants and funding.
- Ensure everyone using the roads should pay their fair share, including electric vehicles
- Oppose bans on the internal combustion engine or setting vehicles quotas for dealers to buy or sell a minimum percentage of electric vehicles.
- Utilities and non-utilities should be on a level playing field when it comes to charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
- State, local, rural and agricultural stakeholders should prioritize federal funds to best meet the transportation needs of their communities.
- Support an “All of the Above” energy strategy, including the year-round use of E-15, E-85, and biodiesel.
- Support making the Short Line “45G” Rehabilitation Tax Credit permanent as it would play an important role in improving our nation’s rural transportation infrastructure.
- Support an expansion of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA’s) CRISI grant program to benefit short line infrastructure projects in rural areas and cautions against unnecessary regulations such as crews size mandates that provide no safety or operational benefits.
- Support increased USDA rural broadband programs to continue the progress already being made.
- Support smart federal regulations that lessen the burdens for permits and increase access to government lands in order to boost additional investments in rural broadband.
- Support the standardization of application, fee and approval policies and procedures across federal land-managing and property-managing agencies, and other measures that will facilitate reasonable sequencing and completion of environmental and historical reviews.
- Support legislation eliminating the HOS ag exemption’s planting and harvesting season provision. Over 30 states already have a year-round “planting and harvesting season” designation. Eliminating this provision ensures the HOS ag exemption is year-round for all states, promoting regulatory consistency and alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens highlighted by the ELD mandate. We also request support for expanding the current air mile radius from 150 to up to 300 for transporters of farm supplies following a FMCSA pilot program to collect safety data to address continued industry consolidation and driver shortages.
Rural Roads & Bridges
The nation’s rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies due to underfunding: 15 percent of the nation’s major rural roads have pavements rated in poor condition, 21 percent rated in mediocre condition and 10 percent of rural bridges rated structurally deficient. ARA is a member of Rebuild Rural, which supports transportation infrastructure investment in rural America. ARA is also a member of the Transportation Fairness Alliance, a diverse coalition that supports a competitive and equitable transportation sector.
Freight railroads are a safe and effective means of transporting bulk commodities and ensuring an economically strong rail network is critical to the health of the U.S. economy. Modernizing the Surface Transportation Board (STB) regulations will ensure that it works better for both the railroads and America’s shippers that rely on them. The nation’s 603 short line and regional railroads operate 29 percent of the nation’s freight rail network.
Broadband is vital to rural economic development, education, precision agriculture, health care & public safety activities. Rural communities deserve the same robust, affordable and reliable broadband services available in urban areas. ARA is part of Rebuild Rural Coalition, which believes that rural broadband service will increase if providers of all kinds – whether traditional telecom providers or others such as electric cooperatives – have access to effective incentives and tools to deploy and sustain broadband networks in certain rural areas.
Hours of Service (HOS) Exemption
Ag retailers heavily depend on commercial drivers for “just in time” delivery of farm supplies and other essential products and services to their farm and ranch customers. Commercial truck traffic is a vital component to the nation’s economic prosperity. Our industry, like many others, are experiencing a growing driver shortage and higher shipping prices due to increased regulatory costs and burdens from Hours of Service (HOS) regulations do not work for today’s agricultural industry and the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requirements. There is also a growing driver shortage due to retirements or departures to other industries due to increased regulations.