Transportation, other ag matters to stay in limelight

Dave Bergmeier

Congressional action and the signature by President Joe Biden averted a national rail strike that could have devastated the United States economy—some speculated it would have cost the nation billions each day. Agriculture had much to do with getting a bipartisan agreement in place.

A continued push for a more bipartisan approach would be welcome news on serious challenges the U.S. agricultural economy faces.

The agreement is good news from an economic standpoint but the sticking point of paid sick leave remains a part of a long-term puzzle, particularly for some rail workers who felt the original agreement negotiated by Biden dismissed their demands.

Agricultural groups have stayed out of that pressure point discussion because a rail shutdown would have made a tenuous supply chain much worse, slowing the shipment of feed, fuels and fertilizers and limiting the movement of crops from grain elevators to ports.

Those groups also share common ties with the over-the-road trucking industry. Two members of Kansas’ delegation—U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall and Rep. Tracey Mann—recently criticized the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Career Safety Administration for not allowing an exemption from federal mandates for truckers who haul livestock. In essence those who were seeking the exemption had hoped that after 10 consecutive hours off duty they could get more added time to drive. The FMCSA cited driver safety as a reason to not allow the exemption.

Several commodity and farm groups, which were glad to see a rail shutdown averted, also shared their disappointment with the FMCSA decision. They noted the stewardship of livestock should also have a high priority.

As 2023 quickly approaches it is likely that agriculture will continue to be in the spotlight on key national issues.

Now more than ever farmers and ranchers will need to stay in touch with House and Senate members and farm and commodity groups so their concerns will be at the forefront. This includes the farm bill and mergers that have impact upon consumers and those who produce it, such as the proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger. Other topics will likely be on cryptocurrency, market concentration and tax policy. Concern about how far entities such as the Securities and Exchange Commission can allow companies to drill down if they are required to disclose emissions will make climate change another hot-button topic.

This is all coming down the pike with a 2023 farm bill on the horizon before a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate. Both margins are razor close and will require greater cooperation to exact the right policies for farmers and ranchers.

Some of the jockeying is already in place but stay tuned because the clock is ticking and the heavy lifting is just beginning.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached 620-227-1822 or [email protected].