Over the last week, there have been several initiatives on Capitol Hill that will have an important impact on the fruit and vegetable supply chain that we wanted to bring to your attention.
First, as you may have heard, today, the Senate approved the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 with strong bipartisan support. The legislation represents the largest investment in American infrastructure in decades. The movement of this legislation is long overdue and has been a critical request by the fresh produce industry and other food and agriculture stakeholders for years. This priority investment will help build a stronger and efficient transportation system along with enhancing much-needed western water infrastructure projects.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 would increase infrastructure spending by $550 billion over five years, including an additional $110 billion in U.S. roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, $50 billion for drought and water infrastructure investments, $17.3 billion for ports and waterways and $8 billion for much-needed drought relief for western states. A detailed summary of the bill is included here.
One provision that was not included in the legislation was allowing for an exemption of Hours of Service within a 150 radius. Because of that omission, United Fresh and other produce association stakeholders sent a letter to the Senate addressing this issue. We will continue to push Congress to address this as they consider this legislation in the House of Representatives.
Finally, we are happy to report that legislation will be introduced in the House that focuses on some of the challenges that exist at our nation’s ports, which are vital to our export markets. United Fresh strongly supports Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson’s (R-SD) bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act legislation which seeks to establish fair ocean carrier regulations that align with the Federal Maritime Commission’s interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention, which unfortunately has not been fully implemented at this time. Important to the produce industry is a requirement for carriers to take export cargo which enables the fresh produce industry and others to export more product. A full summary of this legislation can be found here.
For further information, contact Robert Guenther, United Fresh’s Senior Vice President, Public Policy.