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Congress passes transportation bill

Congress passed the transportation bill on Friday. With rare bipartisan support on back-to-back votes, the House approved the $120 billion package 373-52 and the Senate concurred 74-19. The measure funds transportation projects through 2014, extends the National Flood Insurance Program for five years and locks in the 3.4% interest rates on government-backed student loans.

The transportation bill includes a clarification of regulations critical to the agriculture industry’s ability to distribute farm supplies in a timely manner, especially during the busy planting and harvest seasons. The Ag Retailers Association says it will resolve questions regarding the applicability of the agricultural hours of service (HOS) exemption to all farm supplies, including movements from distribution point to retailers as well as across state lines where both states have adopted the exemption. The HOS exemption had come into question in 2009 when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an interpretation of the regulations that resulted in transportation restrictions for certain farm supplies.

“The passage of this important bill by Congress will help ensure that agricultural retailers are able to supply farmers with the products they need, in the most efficient manner, during busy times of the year,” said Daren Coppock, ARA president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the conferees on this critical issue for the agriculture industry.”

The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature. The measure will prevent those student loan rates from doubling on July 1st.

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