rail grain car
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Source: National Grain and Feed Association

On August 2nd, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended House Transportation and Infrastructure Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., for introducing a bill to reauthorize the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) and help address insufficient, unreliable freight rail service for the U.S. agricultural value chain.

NGFA also thanked House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., House Agriculture Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa, D-Calif., for co-sponsoring the bill.

The most recent STB Reauthorization expired almost two years ago. The Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act, introduced in the House today, includes several updates that would provide fairer treatment for agricultural shippers.

“NGFA members appreciate Chairman Payne, Chairman DeFazio, Chairman Scott and Chairman Costa for their leadership in responding to severe rail service issues that have caused supply chain disruptions, endangered the delivery of feed to livestock, led to grain processing facilities slowing and shutting down, and negatively impacted U.S. grain exports,” NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert said. “The Freight Rail Shipping Fair Market Act would bolster the STB’s existing authority to regulate railcar use by authorizing shippers to charge railroads demurrage to incentivize them to perform in the same way railroads incentivize their customers. The bill also would establish specific criteria for the STB to consider when determining whether a railroad is meeting its common carrier obligation to provide rail service. If the STB determined a carrier was not meeting its common carrier obligation, the bill would empower the STB to prescribe reasonable transit or cycle times or other service standards consistent with the needs and requirements of the shipper making the request. These policy measures, and several others included in this bill, are necessary to improve rail service for agricultural shippers.”

NGFA is working with other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group (ATWG) to promote approval of the bill. In a letter to Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Sam Graves, R-Mo., in support of the legislation, NGFA and 88 other ATWG members outlined sections of the bill that would foster more competition in the freight rail system.

“With fall harvest approaching, agricultural stakeholders need our partners in freight rail to be successful in delivering adequate and resilient service,” the letter states. “We endorse the prompt consideration and approval of the [bill] which includes several sensible and necessary policy measures to improve rail service and level the playing field for agricultural shippers.”