This is the first issue of Farm to Fork for 2012, Happy New Year! From Fletcher R. Hall
Only 2% of the federal legislation introduced in the 112th Congress has passed as we enter a new year and a presidential and general election season. It is regrettable that so many veteran members of Congress in both the House and Senate are choosing to retire at the end of the 112th Congress. Some of those retirements are especially critical to agriculture and transportation. One Congressman I will point out as a distinct loss is Congressman Dennis Cardoza of California.
Congressman Cardoza has been a champion of agriculture and commercial agricultural transportation. The loss of a Congressman such as Representative Cardoza, who understands agriculture, is a serious problem for the industry as fewer and fewer members of Congress understand, or actually engage, in the agricultural sector of the American economy.
Our representative form of government demands a diversity of views and knowledge in order to make informed decisions and enact effective legislation.
One of the issues being discussed by all candidates for Congress and the White House is the intrusive, redundant, costly, and difficult federal regulations emanating from the various federal departments in the federal government. These regulations grow each day and affect every business, large and small, in the nation. Many times they do not reflect the intent of the Congress, who passed the authorizing legislation, or even the individual member of Congress, who was the initial sponsor of the bill.
With all the other business Congress must handle, adequate oversight for these voluminous regulations is impossible. It takes up too much valuable time with little result, or regulatory change, within the federal bureaucracy.
Perhaps it is time to pass reasonable federal legislation to at least have members of Congress determine if regulations promulgated by the federal agencies do actually meet the intent of Congress. Legislating by regulation can be as dangerous as legislating by the courts, from the bench. A well-crafted, practical bill could help stem the tide of injurious regulations before they take up more Congressional time, bureaucratic bickering and judicial action in the court system. As Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric said “change before you have to.”
As Congress gears up after their return to our nation’s capital, the agricultural transportation industries should look for Congressional action on movement on the farm bill, and the long-overdue highway reauthorization bill. The Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works has already produced their version of a 2-year highway reauthorization bill, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has promised to release their version of this legislation very soon.
The major obstacle I see in actually passing any new highway reauthorization bill is the major fight that will occur over deciding how many years to fund any such legislation.
Many state legislatures are now in session and are considering their own state infrastructure and transportation legislation, which will have political consequences for what the Congress does with the funding mechanisms for any federal highway reauthorization bill.
The time may have arrived when Congress must look at new and alternative ways to fund federal transportation legislation. The vehicle-miles-traveled tax and other previously untried measures will probably get serious considerations in this Congress.
Last week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said Congress should pass a long-term surface transportation bill that mirrors the six-year highway plan, which expired in 2009. “I’ll take a long-term bill with what we’re spending now instead of letting it all lapse and having a 30 or 35 percent cut [in the Highway Trust Fund],” Donohue commented.
Donohue commented that the county has to face “a fundamental reality” that federal fuel tax revenue, which goes into the trust fund, will have to be increased. The tax has been unchanged since 1993; having more efficient vehicles on the road today is shrinking the amount going into the trust fund. With the private sector proposing a specifically funded highway funding plan, the Senate another, the White House another, and the House not yet announcing a proposed bill, the picture of what will happen with any congressional highway reauthorization funding bill remains very unclear, at least in this session.
It is certainly in the nation’s best interest that our legislative bodies make informed, effective, and workable decisions for the remainder of the 112th Congress. The track record thus far is not very enviable.
It is time to stop the congestion and gridlock that is clogging Washington, impeding our economic recovery and challenging out nations competitiveness at home and abroad.
Remember the world is run by those who show up.