Farm Credit coalition meets with White House on infrastructure
March 10, 2017
In what appears to be the Trump administration's first White House meeting with rural groups, a coalition organized by the Farm Credit Council met with two National Economic Council members and two Agriculture Department officials March 9 to discuss rural infrastructure needs, Farm Credit Council CEO Todd Van Hoose told The Hagstrom Report.
Van Hoose said he did not have permission to make the officials' names public.
Other groups represented at the meeting were the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the National Grain and Feed Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Rural Water Association and the NTCA — The Rural Broadband Association, Farm Credit said in a news release.
The meeting followed a letter that more than 200 rural groups sent President Donald Trump on Feb. 22 encouraging him to focus on infrastructure.
In the interview, Van Hoose said he came away from the meeting "impressed" by the officials' grasp of rural infrastructure needs.
The officials had "already thought through" how rural broadband needs are different from urban needs, he said, and could even talk about the number of rural water systems that are not up to a safe drinking standard.
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The officials and the rural leaders also discussed transportation needs, how to get crops off the farm, and the need for improvements to surface transportation, rails, locks and dams and ports, Van Hoose said.
The officials did not discuss a specific piece of legislation or how the White House would propose to pay for the infrastructure improvements, Van Hoose said.
"We didn't get into that kind of detail," he said.
The administration officials "are looking at this in a couple different ways," Van Hoose said — at projects and at how regulations can be reduced to speed up the projects, things that could be done without legislation.
Farm Credit's role at the meeting was one of "convenor," Van Hoose said, and the organization, which represents the Farm Credit System institutions in Washington, does not have a list of regulations that should be reduced.
"This was the first of many meetings to come," Van Hoose said. "They are very focused on rural down there."
In a news release, Van Hoose said, "We are grateful that the White House is exploring the unique infrastructure needs of U.S. agriculture and rural communities."
"Rural communities rely on clean water, affordable power and broadband internet to attract new jobs and provide a good quality of life," he said. "Our agricultural competitiveness requires upgrades in transportation infrastructure to get supplies to farmers and to move farm products to markets around the U.S. and overseas.
"This coalition of more than 200 organizations came together because the needs of rural America are great and differ from urban projects. We look forward to working together with the Trump administration and Congress on behalf of rural communities and agriculture."