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Ports-to-Plains Alliance

Friday
Jan122018

GOP leaders reject gas tax increase after Trump floats the idea

Wednesday
Jan102018

The potential ramifications of Trump's proposed infrastructure plan

Pacific Standard

January, 10 2018

President Donald Trump took many opportunities in 2017 to rail against the state of the United States' infrastructure, most recently using the fatal Amtrak crash in Washington state to point out the country's crumbling bridges, roads, and railways. "[O]ur soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly," he tweeted, harkening back to his oft-repeated promise to invest $1 trillion rebuilding the country.

That plan turned into little more than a punch line this past year. But come January, the White House will begin a push, in earnest, for a national infrastructure package that gets to $1 trillion in overall investment, using $200 billion in federal "seed" money, a senior official recently told Fox News.

Trump advisers had previously described an infrastructure package that would rely on the private sector to make up the $800 billion difference. In this version, most of the $200 billion would be rewarded on a competitive basis to states and localities that promise to raise new, infrastructure-dedicated revenue on their own, for a total of $1 trillion, according to White House officials. Some portion of the $200 billion would directly fund projects in rural areas.

Wednesday
Jan102018

Freeways aren't free, and Texas politicos don't want to pay

Houston Chronicle

January 10, 2018

Just after the end of World War I, a young Army officer who was born in Denison, Texas, was assigned to accompany an expedition of military vehicles driving across America. The mission was to determine the difficulties the nation might face moving an entire army across the continent.

Lucky thing the country was no longer at war. The convoy constantly ground to a halt on unpaved roads, sinking into mud, slipping into ditches and sliding into quicksand. The cross-country journey took 62 days, averaging about six miles an hour, something close to the speed of a leisurely walk.

The lessons of that ordeal stuck in the young officer's mind. A generation later, former Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower cited his 1919 convoy experience as a reason for Congress to authorize construction of the Interstate Highway System. The commander-in-chief also proposed paying for the new freeway system with revenues from federal excise taxes on gasoline and lubricating oil.

President Eisenhower knew not only how to get freeways built, but also how to pay for them. We could sure use his help today in Austin. Instead, we're stuck with state leaders who can't figure out how to perform the basic governmental function of paying for highway projects. Our state's political leadership needs to quit dodging this issue and make some tough decisions about how Texas will finance its future roadways.

The problem is that freeway projects cost a lot of money, but the Republicans running the show in Austin don't have the political courage to pass the cost onto taxpayers. Take, for example, what recently happened to a couple of highway expansions proposed for the Dallas and Austin areas. The Texas Transportation Commission removed them from its ten-year plans because both of those projects rely partly on revenue from toll roads.

Thursday
Nov302017

How to Keep NAFTA Dressed for Success

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

November 30, 2017

Textile and apparel executives, and their U.S. workers, are nervously eyeing the ongoing negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Concerns around possible job losses in this sector are running high and rising.

If you had read those statements in the mid-1980s, you might assume this sector was hoping trade talks would unravel, due to threats of foreign competition. Some still believe that to be the case, but they are mistaken.

What a difference a generation makes.

To understand why NAFTA helps the U.S. textile and apparel industry compete, you need only understand one number: 97.

That is the percentage of clothes that are purchased every year by Americans and produced offshore. We still make clothes here in the United States — primarily for fast turns, for the military, and for special programs — and we always will. But the bulk of our clothing is sewn offshore.

Asian countries own a good chunk of that 97%. Six of our top ten clothing suppliers are in Asia with China leading the way at about 40% market share. But the other four top suppliers are in the Western Hemisphere, and they include Mexico — one of our two NAFTA partners.

Read on...

Thursday
Nov162017

Terminating NAFTA Would Devastate American Agriculture: The View of a Wheat Farmer

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

November 16, 2017

On average 50% of wheat grown in the United States is exported around the world, making trade a vital market to myself and fellow wheat growers. Our main message in North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) re-negotiations is “Do no harm.”

NAFTA is one of our most important trade agreements. Just last year alone, Mexico was our largest export market with about three million metric tons of wheat and is consistently in the top ten. Prior to NAFTA, U.S. wheat was subject to high tariffs and other trade barriers in Mexico. With zero duties and lifted tariffs, exports to Mexico increased by 400% ten years after implementation of NAFTA, compared to ten years prior to NAFTA.  

While we hope calls for withdraw are just rhetoric, we are taking this threat very seriously. In fact, threats alone have already hurt U.S. wheat. When it comes to commodities, if a customer is unsure of the reliability of their source, they will look to our competitors. Mexico has done just that after a trade mission to Argentina and Brazil in May which led to Mexican millers purchasing Argentina wheat. The first shipment purchased by eight companies will be made in late December and will be 30,000 metric tons of wheat as a trial.

Tuesday
Nov142017

New ATRI Research Provides Clear Guidance on Infrastructure Investment

ATRI

Novemver 14, 2017 

As the Ports-to-Plains Alliance continues its advocacy for fixing the federal Highway Trust Fund and for the state level funding, we believe it is critical to look carefully at transportation funding options. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released A Framework for Infrastructure Funding which assesses the nation’s infrastructure funding options.  Did you know that to support the nation’s infrastructure, the trucking industry pays $41.3 billion in federal and state highway-user taxes.  The trucking industry, in fact, pays nearly 46 percent of highway user fees collected for the Highway Trust Fund.

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance hopes you will not only read the news release but download the complete assessment.  As the news release indicates, “the only meaningful mechanism for attaining the administration’s vision for a large-scale infrastructure program is through a federal fuel tax increase.  The inefficiency of other mechanisms, including mileage-based user fees and increased tolling, will fall far short of the needed revenue stream without placing undue hardship on system users.”


The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), a well-known leader in transportation-related research, is an organization whose hallmark is innovative thinking, critical analysis and uncompromised excellence. As part of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Federation, ATRI benefits from the broad support of the ATA and its members.

The ATA represents over 35,000 motor carriers through the affiliated trucking associations in 50 states. As a result of ATRI’s prominence within the trucking industry, state and federal agencies turn to ATRI for trucking-related research, particularly when industry insight and cooperation is essential to the success of the project. 
Tuesday
Nov072017

Top GOP Senator won’t rule out gas tax hike for infrastructure upgrades

The Hill

November 7, 2017

The Senate’s No. 3 Republican left the door open on Tuesday to raising the federal gasoline tax to pay for infrastructure improvements — an idea currently being considered by the White House, but one that has repeatedly run into a buzz saw of opposition on Capitol Hill. 
“I’m not ruling out anything at this point,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters. “I think we need to keep our options open in terms of how we get that done.” 
“We have members who are open to all ideas about how to pay for [infrastructure],” he added. 
White House officials told a group of moderate House lawmakers last week that they are considering a gas tax hike to help offset President Trump’s infrastructure proposal. 

An industry source told The Hill that the administration is eyeing a 7-cent increase, though it’s unclear if the proposal would be included in the initial infrastructure legislation or if the administration will push to have it added at the committee level. 

It would be the first hike in the federal gasoline tax in over 20 years. The Highway Trust Fund, which provides money for road construction and other transportation projects across the country, is financed by a federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. 
“If anything is done on the Highway Trust Fund, it will happen in the context of an infrastructure discussion,” Thune said. “If that’s what we’re going to use to pay for infrastructure in this country, then we’ve got to figure out a way to fund the trust fund.”
Monday
Sep112017

NAFTA's Impact On Cattle, Protein Trade

CattleFax

September 11, 2017

Trade representatives of the United States, Mexico and Canada declared “progress” but unveiled no breakthroughs at the most recent second round of talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Warnings have been expressed from U.S. agricultural producer organizations about the harm that would come from blowing up the decades-old trade arrangement.

When it comes to cattle imported into the U.S. from Mexico and Canada, combined is just over a million head per year, or about two weeks of cattle slaughter. When looking at all proteins -- beef, pork and poultry -- to stop all trade with Canada and Mexico would put 250 million pounds back on the U.S. market net. Yet it could have a significant impact on the market individually, such as poultry as we export significant amounts to Mexico.

The NAFTA talks are expected to last at least through the end of this year, with venues rotating among the three nations. The just-concluded five-day session in Mexico City followed an initial round last month in Washington.