House passes infrastructure bill, wins much praise
The House late Friday passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the Senate in mid-August and now goes to President Biden for his signature.
The vote was 228 to 206, a bigger margin than expected considering criticism by House progressives of the move to take it up before the Build Back Better Act. Thirteen House Republicans voted for the bill, while six Democrats did not.
The bill is often described as spending $1.2 trillion, but in October The Washington Post said only $550 billion is new spending, with the rest coming from funding that is normally allotted each year for highways and other projects.
After the vote, the House moved on to procedural measures related to the Build Back Better Act, with both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Biden promising the House would pass it after both the House and the Senate are out for Veterans Day week.
House Democratic moderates balked at taking up the BBB until the Congressional Budget Office scores it.
Both the National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association praised passage of the infrastructure bill.
“We are pleased to see the House act on this legislation which was developed in a bipartisan manner and allocates funding for initiatives that are extremely important to corn growers and rural America,” said NCGA President Chris Edgington. “This is a once in a generation infrastructure investment that will help farmers for years to come.”
Kevin Scott, soybean farmer from Valley Springs, South Dakota, and American Soybean Association president said, “Good things can indeed come to those who wait, and passage of this long-considered bill is a win for everyone in our country.”
“Infrastructure is critical to the long-term success of not only the ag industry, but also the general health of American commerce and global competitiveness. We are very appreciative that our congressional leaders stayed the course on this important package that will bolster the U.S. economy, and which encompasses so many priorities for soy, ranging from surface transportation and waterways funding to investments in rural broadband and new opportunities for soy-based products.”
ASA said, “The package increases much-needed funding for roads and bridges, including targeted funding for rural areas; accounts for freight rail and inland waterways funding; has provisions to address truck driver shortages, including hours-of-service changes; supports a new pilot program to highlight the benefits of biobased construction materials, like soy-based concrete sealant; and, addresses critical rural broadband issues.
“Soybeans and other agriculture commodities rely on a multimodal network including truck, rail and waterways. The current supply chain challenges underscore the importance of reliable infrastructure, which impacts competitiveness at both the farm level and on the global stage.”
The National Grain and Feed Association also praised the vote, noting that the bipartisan legislation would increase infrastructure spending by $550 billion over five years, including an additional $110 billion in U.S. roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, and approximately $17 billion for ports and waterways.
The latter includes $2.5 billion specifically for inland waterways construction projects. The bill also includes a number of provisions designed to boost the resiliency of the agricultural supply chain, including $10 billion in grants to upgrade and strengthen the electric grid, an apprenticeship pilot program to address the nationwide truck driver shortage, as well as authorizing further investments in cybersecurity.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson said, “This bipartisan bill provides a significant down payment toward meeting critical needs of electric cooperatives and the communities we serve, including funding for priorities such as broadband deployment and electric vehicle charging.”
“This bill recognizes the need to expand these two technologies in rural communities. As policymakers plan for a future that depends on electricity to drive the economy, more work will be needed to build on the groundwork laid by this legislation.”
While farm groups focused on the transportation and broadband provisions, environmentalists highlighted other provisions.
Environment America said, “The vote follows years of failed ‘Infrastructure Weeks’ and months of debate over President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.”
“Key environmental provisions include:
▪ “$55 billion for water infrastructure, including $15 billion to remove lead pipes and $200 million to address lead in school drinking water
▪ Record investments in transit, walking and biking infrastructure
▪ $7.5 billion to begin building a nationwide electric vehicle charging network
▪ Funding for thousands of clean, electric school buses and low and zero emission transit buses
▪ $73 billion to strengthen the electrical grid and improve energy efficiency
▪ Beginning the process of reinstating the Superfund tax ‘polluter pays’ principle while also including additional funding to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells
▪ $65 billion for broadband
▪ $350 million to build wildlife corridors, which ensure animals can get under, around or over roads to migrate, mate and maintain biodiversity.”
“Making this commitment to our nation’s land, water, and wildlife signals that lawmakers understand the relationship between infrastructure and natural resources,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Fosburgh said numerous provisions in the $1.2-trillion bipartisan deal are top TRCP priorities, including:
▪ $350 million for a first-of-its-kind grant program to construct wildlife-friendly roadway crossings and reconnect fragmented migration corridors.
▪ $250 million for the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program to improve access to Forest Service public lands and safeguard fish and wildlife habitat from harmful runoff and pollutants caused by roads in disrepair.
▪ Reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which pays for fisheries conservation, access improvements, and education for anglers and boaters.
▪ $1.4 billion for natural infrastructure solutions through the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grant Program.
▪ $14.65 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, which supports estuary restoration and stormwater management projects.
▪ $400 million for WaterSMART grants, with $100 million set aside for natural infrastructure solutions that enhance resilience to drought and wildfires, facilitate water conservation, create new habitat, and improve water quality.
▪ Significant investments in programs aimed at enhancing the resiliency of Western watersheds to climate change and drought, including $300 million to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans, $3.2 billion to modernize aging agricultural infrastructure and generate benefits for fish and wildlife, and $50 million to support ongoing Endangered Species recovery efforts that sustain habitat for native fish.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation said the bill boosts funding for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program by a historic $238 million over five years.
The $238 million increase works out to $47.6 million in added funded annually, or more than 50% higher than current levels, CBF added.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko said,
“More money for the Chesapeake Bay Program is welcome news at a pivotal time for the future of the Bay, its tributaries, and the more than 18 million people who live, work, and play in its six-state watershed.
“We look forward to partnering with EPA to make the most of this timely budget increase while we still have time to save this national treasure. We owe future generations nothing less.”
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