Ag Trans calls for more inland rail depots

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition called for more inland rail depots to help ease congestion at coastal seaports, especially West Coast ports. The plea was part of lengthy testimony by Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, before the Committee on Agriculture of the U.S. House of Representative recently.

“There must be continued expansion of inland rail depots in the nation’s heartland or near to the coast, to provide the space to collect and organize containers, as marine terminals do not have sufficient space,” Friedmann said. “These can particularly benefit U.S. agriculture exporters. Many exist along the East and Gulf coasts, but almost none serve the West Coast seaports where the space constraints are the greatest. It will require Class I railroads, short line railroads, state and local governments, port authorities and shippers to get these planned and built.”

Among the other measures urged by AgTrans:

• Make truck weights “efficient and safe;”

• Pass the SHIP IT Act, which would allow truck drivers to apply for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants, among other incentives;

• Expand tax breaks to high-mileage truck drivers; and

• Create tax incentives to recruit and retain truck drivers.

So far, the SHIP IT Act has been supported by the Shippers Coalition, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Milk Producers, Consumer Brands Association, and heavy-duty suspension manufacturer Hendrickson.

Friedmann spoke of the importance of the transportation advantage to U.S. agricultural exporters. Addressing committee members, he said, “Why is your inquiry so important? For this reason: there is virtually nothing in U.S. agriculture and forest products grown or produced in this country that cannot be sourced or substituted with products from elsewhere in the world; if we cannot deliver affordably and dependably, both our foreign and U.S. customers can, and have proven they will, shift their purchases to those other countries, sometimes permanently.”

The hearing was titled “Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges for American Agriculture.”

David Murray can be reached at [email protected].