Ag groups call for bipartisan infrastructure package with rural focus

Source: By Spencer Chase, AgriPulse • Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A coalition of hundreds of food and ag groups say any infrastructure package passed by Congress and signed by the president should garner support from both parties and recognize the unique needs of farm country.

In a statement Monday, the Rebuild Rural Coalition – which counts more than 250 organizations in its membership – said the Biden administration’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure package “offers a good starting point for discussions with Congress.”

“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 group said.

In particular, the coalition pointed to a letter it sent to President Joe Biden in January outlining its priorities. That letter called improving transportation infrastructure the most obvious need in rural communities, but not the only one.”

“In particular, 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,” the undersigned groups noted in January. “These areas all require major investment for America to continue efficiently moving our agricultural products to market.”

The breadth of the proposed package has emerged as a sticking point in public dialogue between the administration and Capitol Hill Republicans, who have criticized the initiative as too broad and expensive.

Biden hosted a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in the Oval Office Monday to discuss thee plan. Speaking to the media at the beginning of the meeting, Biden said he was willing to talk through some of the sticking points.

“I’m prepared to negotiate as to the extent of my infrastructure project as well as how we pay for it,” he said. “I think everyone acknowledges we need a significant increase in infrastructure; it’s going to get down to what we call infrastructure.”

In its current form, the project includes provisions such as $174 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, $100 billion for broadband funding, and $17 billion for waterway projects.

The ag groups say negotiations should take place and a bill should emerge that has the ability to address a wide range of rural infrastructure challenges.

“Rebuild Rural agrees the time to invest in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is now,” the coalition said Monday. “It’s critical to our nation’s future and international competitiveness. And we hope Congress will work together to find bipartisan solutions that benefit all of America, including our rural communities.”

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