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US infrastructure and rural prosperity: Are we falling behind?

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance is please to share the series "Keeping Rural America Competitive" by Agri-Pulse.  We will publish the first four in the series in the next few days and then will complete the series as it is published by Agri-Pulse on a weekly basis.  This is important reading for our members and those interested in Rural America.


September 12, 2016

This article is the first in a seven-part series, “Keeping Rural America Competitive,” that Agri-Pulse is publishing to give readers some perspective on the history and status of America's infrastructure and improvements needed to help farmers and ranchers remain competitive, prosperous and enjoying a strong quality of life.

One of the reasons American agriculture is so competitive is our infrastructure,” says Andrew Walmsley, an American Farm Bureau Federation expert who advocates for strong infrastructure to serve the country's farmers. He points to ¨the advantages we've had with our waterways, what has historically been a very strong interstate (highway) system, and strong rail network. They´ve all kind of built a foundation for U.S. agriculture to grow.¨ But in more recent years, he says, ¨There has definitely been some hand-wringing over the health of that infrastructure.¨

Walmsley sees his foremost role as protecting agriculture from laws and regulations that can break links between infrastructure advances and the farm economy: countering environmental opposition to lock replacements on the Mississippi River system, for instance, or new river port terminals in the Pacific Northwest. “It´s important for us to ensure there is an environment for innovation to take place to address (infrastructure) needs,” he says.

Much of the underlying concern about the need for better infrastructure stems from the projection that food production in the U.S. and abroad will need to dramatically increase, with estimates of world population exceeding 9 billion by 2050. U.S. farmers and ranchers are poised to dramatically increase productivity and help “feed the nine” - if they have a strong distribution network that can both deliver inputs to them and move their crops, livestock, dairy and poultry products to markets - all enhanced by the burgeoning connections with broadband and wireless communications.

Yet, numerous reports and surveys point to infrastructure challenges on the horizon. Read on…


Mandated Use of Electronic Logging Devices Tops the List of Concerns in Annual Trucking Industry Survey

American Transportation Research Institute

October 3, 2016

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the trucking industry’s not-for-profit research institute, today unveiled its top industry issues report, which includes the list of the top ten critical issues facing the North American trucking industry.

The looming implementation date of the federal mandate on the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) topped the list of trucking industry concerns, with more than 65 percent of respondents concerned about productivity impacts the industry may experience from full deployment of ELDs.

The complete results of the annual survey, which generated more than 3,200 responses from motor carriers and commercial drivers, were released today at the 2016 Management Conference and Exhibition of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, the nation’s largest gathering of motor carrier executives.  The ATRI Top Industry Issues report also includes prioritized strategies for addressing each issue.

Dropping one position from its top ranking the past three years, Hours-of-Service (HOS) stayed near the top of the list due to ongoing uncertainty of a final HOS rule. Ranking third in this year’s survey – Cumulative Economic Impacts of Trucking Regulations – is new to the annual list and reflects the industry’s collective frustration with increasing and often costly regulatory requirements.

The lack of available truck parking moved the issue up again this year to fourth place overall and the state of the nation’s economy rounds out the top five concerns on the list.   Read on…

Link to Complete Report


Groundwork Laid for the “Protein Highway”

Real Agriculture

September 27, 2016

A corridor that stretches from the Canadian Prairies to South Dakota is poised to lead the world in plant-based protein production and innovation, with the most secure supply and lowest environmental footprint, say the organizers behind the “Protein Highway” concept.

The initiative was inspired during a meeting hosted by Canadian Governor General David Johnston in Minnesota in April 2015, where he urged universities, government and industry on both sides of the border to work together in developing agriculture technology.

It has quickly moved from the idea stage to the point where a network of industry, government and universities is being set up to drive business, branding and research for protein-rich crops grown in the area from around Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, explains John Oliver of Maple Leaf Bio-Concepts, in the video below.

The formal launch for the “Protein Highway” was held at the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference in Fargo, North Dakota last week, featuring some of the businesses that are participating in the project — for example, an aquaculture tech business in South Dakota and a Silicon Valley-based vegetarian food company.   Read on…


Energy Citizens

America needs decision makers that support energy policies that will create jobs, grow our economy, and increase America's energy security. Looking for a simple way to make your voice heard… to elected officials… even to your community.  Just go to Energy Citizens’ website.

Joe Kiely, Ports-to-Plains Alliance Vice President of Operations, recently submitted the following comment to Energy Citizens with the goal of supporting energy policies that will create jobs, grow our economy, and increase America's energy security

Improved infrastructure and increased oil and gas development is key to our rural and urban economic success. It is imperative that we have access to affordable energy and a safe way to transport that energy be that roads, railways or pipelines. This focus will also help to create thousands of jobs that we desperately need to rebuild our economy. Not to mention, domestic production will decrease our dependence on foreign oil from hostile nations that do not have our best interests in mind. We need to take care of ourselves. The great news is we have the ability to do just that by supporting improved infrastructure and gas and oil development for this great nation. 

Being part of Energy Citizens has been a great way to help advocate for our energy independence. It is easy to stay updated on current energy issues and allows me to easily share this information with our Ports-to-Plains Alliance membership and take action. If we are all working together towards the same goal, we can each make a difference and bring us closer to a secure energy future for America and help bring us one step closer to energy independence. 


Alberta promotes investment, strengthens ties with Mexico

Government of Alberta

September 28, 2016

Alberta’s Energy Minister will sign a new agreement with Mexico’s federal government that will strengthen relations with an important trading partner and better enable the sharing of best practices.

Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd will travel to Mexico City from September 29 to October 3. While there, she will promote Alberta companies, new opportunities for investment, and will meet with businesses and the Mexican government on a variety of energy-related policies. Mexico has also requested that the Minister be the guest of honour at a renewable energy event in Mexico City.

The Minister will set the stage for the upcoming Mexico Midstream Mission that takes place October 4-5. More than 20 Alberta midstream energy companies will meet with Mexican officials and businesses to discuss opportunities in the development of energy infrastructure across North America.

“Our government is committed to opening new markets for Alberta resources and our companies. Albertans have extensive experience in responsible and sustainable energy development and I will advocate for our companies looking to expand to the south.” -- Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Energy Minister  

Read on…


U.S. must recommit to federal highway program

Commentary by Henry Cisneros  Suzanne Shank

September 27, 2016

We are seeing more and more states taking proactive steps to address transportation funding challenges. In 2015 and 2016, more than a dozen states including Texas are raising additional revenue for transportation.

Sixty years ago, the United States embarked on one of the most ambitious and successful undertakings in the history of the federal government. In June 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act, which created what we have come to know as the Interstate Highway System. A vast network made up of some 47,000 miles of roads, the system has transformed our nation economically, culturally and geographically.

The system, which took decades to build, fundamentally altered where and how Americans live. Suburbs were born, new industries were created and the shipment of goods by truck over long distances radically changed almost every sector of the economy. In 1960, with the system in its infancy, Americans drove approximately 7.19 trillion highway miles per year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation; in 2014, that number had risen to 30.25 trillion.

It was not just the potential economic boost that convinced Eisenhower to champion the federal highway program. As a former general who had led U.S. forces in Europe during World War II, President Eisenhower believed a highway system was essential for our national defense. With the threat of the Cold War, Eisenhower argued the military needed to be able to move equipment quickly over long distances and civilians might need to evacuate large areas on short notice.  Read on…


Debate Preview: What to Expect from Clinton and Trump on Infrastructure

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

September 22, 2016

We’re a few days away from the first of four scheduled debates in the presidential race, and while we know a lot from the candidates’ plans in several key policy issues— including trade, immigration and financial regulation—we hope that this first debate sheds more light on exactly what each candidate would do to advance another important area of concern: America’s infrastructure.

Our country’s infrastructure policy and funding mechanisms affect every American, every business and every community. Study after study has shown that investing in infrastructure leads to better safety, faster economic growth and higher quality of life. However, a recent analysis by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) tells a sad story, saddling America’s infrastructure with D+ grade—which is actually an improvement from a grade of D in the previous report. The report estimates that the U.S. would need to invest $3.6 trillion to bring our nation’s infrastructure to a state of good repair by 2020.

The good news is that the two leading presidential candidates seem to agree with each other (and with America’s business community) about the importance of investing in infrastructure. Problem is, we haven’t heard much about their plans to actually pay for these critical investments.

With that in mind, here’s what we have heard from the two candidates on infrastructure policy– and what the American business community will be hoping to hear during the first debate on Monday.   Read on…


Montana Governor: Shoring up state's infrastructure job one for 2017 Legislature

Billings Gazette

September 21, 2016

Montana Governor Steve BullockLike many others attending the 107th Montana Association of Counties conference in Billings on Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock helped himself to some of the freebies offered to attendees.

Before addressing county commissioners from around the state, Bullock held aloft a four-way screwdriver provided to attendees by Stahly Engineering & Associates, which has offices in Bozeman and Helena.

Bullock said Montana’s county commissioners are more fortunate than the nation’s 50 governors.

“We never get these at the National Governors Association,” he said.

Bullock told commissioners, who are meeting at the Billings Hotel & Convention Center, that the state’s infrastructure “needs our immediate attention.”

After falling short by one vote during the 2015 session and vetoing a Republican infrastructure bill in 2013, Bullock has proposed a 2017 bill calling for $200 million in cash and bonds to be spent on infrastructure needs across the state.   Read on…

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