Passage of infrastructure bill gains praise from agricultural organizations
On Nov. 5, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed the U.S. House by a vote of 228-206 to send the bill to the executive branch. Many agricultural organizations are pleased to see the passage of this bill, which includes important provisions for agricultural production.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says, “This is a transformative, historic investment for America as President Biden delivers on his promise to rebuild the physical infrastructure of our country, grow the economy for decades to come, create good-paying, union jobs and better position us to compete in a global economy. As we make significant progress in closing the digital divide and delivering 21st century broadband, farmers will have access to real-time information and new technologies needed to maintain their competitive edge, small businesses will be able to develop their markets and rural communities can become better connected to jobs, telemedicine and distance learning.”
Ted McKinney, the CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, echoed Vilsack’s praise on the passage of the bipartisan legislation.
He notes, “State departments of agriculture commend the U.S. House of Representatives for coming together to build opportunities for agriculture and rural communities. We can all recognize the importance of a thriving U.S. agriculture industry to all people, and this action will connect more individuals to American grown products and provide financial sustainability for farming and ranching businesses.”
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes the largest investment in rural broadband to date. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is provided at least $100 million to expand broadband in rural areas and map underserved communities nationwide.
According to the FCC, more than 26 percent of rural Americans lack access to broadband services, compared to less than two percent of urban Americans.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall shares, “A quarter of America’s farm families have no high-speed internet access while working to meet the needs of a growing world. Investments in physical infrastructure like broadband will be critical to bridging the digital divide.”
An August 2021 Farm Computer Usage and Ownership report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service shared 29 percent of farms utilized the internet to purchase agricultural inputs and 21 percent of farms used the internet to market agricultural activities on a national level.
Roads, bridges and water navigation
In addition to increasing broadband in rural communities, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides funding to rebuild roads, bridges, railways and waterways to strengthen supply chains.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Director of Government Affairs Allison Rivera says, “The infrastructure package includes several key provisions that NCBA has long advocated for, including funding for the modernization of roads and bridges, funding for high-speed rural broadband, congressional commitment to the improvement of the federal permitting process for critical water-related investments and an additional 150 air-mile exemption for livestock haulers on the destination of hauls, providing much needed flexibility under current hours-of-service regulations.”
“Investing in critical infrastructure is consistent with NCBA’s mission to increase producer profitability,” Rivera continues. “The ability for cattle producers to efficiently raise cattle, haul them safely and compete in a fast-paced global marketplace has a direct link to the economic stability of rural communities and a resilient food supply chain.”
The bipartisan infrastructure package includes provisions from Sen. Deb Fischer’s (R-NE) Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act. With the passage of this bill, livestock haulers are now granted a 150 air-mile radius from the origin and destination of their trip.
According to the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), this allows livestock haulers to travel an additional 300 miles while exempt from restrictive hours-of-service regulations.
“USCA thanks Sen. Fischer for her tireless efforts to achieve regulatory flexibility for transporters of live animals,” says USCA Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hilker. “This accomplishment is a massive improvement in how we are able to operate.”
He continues, “The language included in this bipartisan infrastructure framework helps prevent the situation of having a livestock hauler run out of hours mere miles from their destination. Livestock haulers cannot stop and unload their animals like drivers of furniture or steel – or wait on the side of the highway for their clocks to reset.”
“We need this regulatory flexibility to be able to get these animals to their destination as safely and efficiently as possible,” Hilker adds.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.