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Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) reports:

The beginning of a new year brings the opportunity for Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) members to refocus the member-led organization's policy priorities for the coming year. ARA's Washington-based policy team has been working for months with the Biden administration transition team and staffers on Capitol Hill to bring them up to speed on the issues.

The ARA policy committee and ARA board of directors have worked diligently to prioritize policy positions in preparation for the organization's annual legislative fly-in, which will be held virtually from Feb. 11 to March 19.

As determined by the membership, ARA's policy priorities for 2021 include the following.

Transportation & Broadband Infrastructure
Transportation infrastructure (highways, bridges, locks and dams, rail, harbor and ports) and rural broadband deployment are essential needs for rural communities. Securing federal investment, pursuing public-private partnerships, easing regulations and revising outdated statutory requirements will ensure efficient use of funds and timely completion of projects.

The hours of service (HOS) regulations have a number of underlying issues that lead to imposing unnecessary costs and burdens on the agriculture industry.
ARA will advocate for expanded funding opportunities and lessened regulatory burdens, including support for HOS reforms and a pilot program for farm supply transporters to operate up to a 200-air-mile radius.
Ag Labor & Workforce

The agricultural community is dependent on a sustainable workforce. Every farmworker engaged in high-value, labor-intensive crop and livestock production sustains two to three off-farm jobs.

The current H-2A ag guest worker visa program needs major statutory reforms if it is to be a workable solution for the entire agriculture industry. Current federal minimum age (21) requirements to obtain a CDL has a negative impact on driver recruitment efforts. Businesses are not able to hire young adults (ages 18 to 20) who are making initial career choices.

ARA supports the establishment of a comprehensive immigration reform policy with specific measures in place for reliable verification, border security and an opportunity for current workers to apply for legal status through an eligible agricultural employer's sponsorship.
ARA also supports legislation such as the "Drive Safe Act" to create a pilot program for short haul drivers between the ages of 18 to 20 transporting farm supplies and/or agricultural commodities to increase the available number of commercial drivers.

Climate Change & Sustainable Agriculture
ARA is a member of the Food & Ag Climate Alliance, a coalition of organizations representing all sectors of America's agriculture industry as well as forest owners, the food sector and environmental advocates working together to define and promote shared climate policy priorities. Ag retailers and their farmer-customers are on the frontlines of climate impacts and an integral part of the climate solutions.

To achieve this objective, ARA is a leading voice in the Sustainability Programming for Ag Retailers and CCAs Initiative. By providing voluntary, incentive-based tools to farmers, ranchers and forest owners, they are able to maximize the sequestration of carbon and the reduction of other greenhouse gas emissions as well as increase the resilience of the land.

ARA will continue to advocate for policies that promote plant-based biofuels, which benefit the ag economy and can help in addressing climate change. Efforts to ban the internal combustion engine would be detrimental to efforts to support the biofuels industry and the overall ag economy.

Food Equity
Food equity is a concept that all people have the ability and opportunity to grow and consume healthy, nutritious and affordable food. Maintaining the ability to grow and produce food is at the heart of our food system. This effort is led by America's agricultural retailers working with their farm and ranch customers. Every item consumers eat starts out being grown or produced and eventually makes its way to our plates.

It is critical the federal government makes decisions based on reviewing sound science, considering peer-reviewed data and following a risk-based approach. Farmers need access to critical crop input supplies (pesticides, fertilizers, biostimulants, seed) and precision agriculture technologies. FIFRA provides for the federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale and use and establishes stringent safety standards and oversight. U.S. agriculture remains the leader in plant breeding innovation due to clear, predictable and science- and risk-based regulations.

New innovations in plant breeding provide benefits such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, dramatically increasing crop productivity, providing more food to remote communities and decreasing food waste.

For healthy and productive growth of nutritious food, plants also require essential nutrients in the soil. Fertilizers serve as a supplement to the natural supply of soil nutrients, build up soil fertility to help satisfy the demands of crop production and compensate for the nutrients taken by harvested crops.

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