Agriculture calls for support within infrastructure proposal
Infrastructure policy is a major focus for the current administration, as details of President Biden’s infrastructure proposal are released. A White House statement shared, “The American Jobs Plan is an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild the country’s infrastructure and position the United States to out-compete China.”
The American Jobs Plan, a $2.7 trillion infrastructure package, includes investments in roadways, broadband and water systems, as well as power grids and other transportation improvements.
More than transportation
In a statement on April 12, the Rebuild Rural Coalition, comprised of more than 250 rural and agricultural organizations said, “The Rebuild Rural Coalition thanks President Biden for his infrastructure proposal. It offers a good starting point for discussions with Congress.”
The coalition sent a letter to President Biden in January outlining priorities and sharing transportation infrastructure isn’t the only need for improvements to rural communities, stating, “We appreciate your plan specifically includes roads and bridges, locks and dams, railroads, electrical and water systems, agricultural research at land grant universities, broadband, healthcare and housing. These areas all require major investment for Americans to continue efficiently moving agricultural products to market.”
According to the White House press release, the president’s plan will modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main streets and repair the 10 most economically significant bridges as well as the worst 10,000 small bridges. The plan allocates $20 billion to improve road safety.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “As Americans, we need to develop a plan to fix the dismal state of the nation’s infrastructure and make sure rural America isn’t left in the dust.”
Another goal of the American Jobs Plan is to reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage across the U.S., particularly in unserved and underserved communities.
“Broadband access in rural communities continues to lag far behind the speeds in urban and suburban communities, with 20 percent of school children lacking a high-speed connection,” noted Duvall. “We have sounded the alarm on this growing digital divide for years and the pandemic has demonstrated more clearly why we must get high-speed internet throughout rural America.”
The White House shared this $100 billion investment to bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American is included in the infrastructure package.
Water system infrastructure
“President Biden’s plan will protect and, where necessary, restore nature-based infrastructure – the lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds and coastal and ocean resources,” shared the White House on the proposed $17 billion investment in inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry and ferries. “President Biden is calling on Congress to invest in protection from extreme wildfires, coastal resilience to sea-level rise and hurricanes, support for agricultural resources management and climate-smart technologies and the protection and restoration of major land and water resources.”
In addition, this proposal includes funding for the western drought crisis by investing in water efficiency and recycling programs, Tribal water settlements and dam safety.
“Along rivers and streams, nearly 40,000 miles of levees protect communities and farmland,” Duvall explained, noting a breech in levees has the ability to cause great harm to rural and farming communities. “These waterways are also essential to moving agricultural products to major ports.”
Affording infrastructure updates
With $100 billion slated for broadband infrastructure, $20 billion to off-system bridges, $10 billion to rural and Tribal water systems, $5 billion to rural partnership programs and $2 billion to U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed, there are many things which could benefit rural and agricultural communities. Though, many agricultural organizations and legislators are concerned with how to pay for these updates and improvements.
“While these are critical infrastructure priorities, we are closely watching how the administration and Congress will pay for this package and whether it will include mandates which could harm our communities,” said Duvall.
“As they work through negotiations, we strongly encourage a bipartisan approach that considers the unique needs of rural infrastructure and sets aside specific funding for rural communities,” the Rebuild Rural Coalition shared. “We agree the time to invest in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure is now – it’s critical to our nation’s future and international competitiveness. We hope Congress will work together to find bipartisan solutions that benefit all of America, including rural communities.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.