Senate passes infrastructure bill, wins farm group praises
The Senate today passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill by a vote of 69 to 30.
The bill, which covers physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges and broadband, now goes to the House, where Democratic leaders pledged to take it up only in conjunction with a second human infrastructure bill that is expected to go through the Senate under reconciliation procedures and be passed only by Democratic senators and Vice President Harris.
Farm and other rural groups praised the passage.
National Corn Growers Association President John Linder said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in America’s infrastructure, and we are extremely pleased that it includes funding for priorities that are important to farmers and rural America. The legislation will benefit agriculture for years to come, and it is encouraging for corn farmers to see senators working together on a bipartisan basis.”
Linder noted that the bill includes $17.3 billion for the nation’s ports and inland waterways. “With 60% of corn exports utilizing these waterways, NCGA and coalition partners have a track record of advocating for these key resources,” Linder said. He also noted the bill includes $65 billion for broadband Internet access, including $2 billion specifically for rural broadband, which will provide more farmers and residents of rural areas with high-speed Internet access. “An estimated 29% of farmers don’t have access to Internet service, an important tool for marketing crops and planning for planting season,” Linder said.
Farm Credit Council President and CEO Todd Van Hoose said, “Farm Credit thanks the Senate for its bipartisan efforts to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This legislation will create jobs and improve quality of life across the country, including in rural America.
“The investments in rural broadband will connect more communities. Improvements to rural water systems will ensure safe drinking water supplies and adequate wastewater systems. And the agriculture transport network will benefit from improved rural roadways and bridges, freight rail, inland waterways and port facilities.
“All of these investments will make U.S. agriculture more competitive in global markets and our rural communities more vital places to live and work.”
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker noted that the bill would increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program by $238 million over five years.
Dave Puglia, president and CEO of Western Growers, the fruit and vegetable group that is aligned with 220 groups in the western states, said, “We commend the Senate for taking this historic action. Without access to a safe, reliable and affordable water supply, the long-term viability of our family farms and rural communities in the West are in jeopardy, along with more than 80% of all U.S. fruit, vegetable and tree nut production. As the current drought has demonstrated, time is running out, which is why we call on the House to act with urgency and pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act without delay.”
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson said, “This bipartisan proposal is a meaningful first step and carries significant benefits for rural families and businesses, particularly those who lack access to high-speed broadband.
“As policymakers plan for a future that depends on electricity as the primary energy source for much of the economy, more work will be needed to build on this infrastructure down payment. Electric co-ops will continue pushing for the financial flexibility to refinance existing government loans at today’s low interest rates and eligibility for direct pay tax credits to boost electric co-op investments in renewables and other innovative energy technologies,” Matheson said.
Richard Cullen, executive director of Connect Americans Now, a broad-based coalition of more than 300 companies and organizations representing agriculture, education, health care, veterans’ issues, technology and small business on the digital divide, said, “Connect Americans Now applauds senators, on both sides of the aisle, who rightly recognized that broadband deployment, adoption and digital skills are critical infrastructure necessary to safeguard the American Dream in every community. This bipartisan down payment on tackling the broadband gap will help ensure more Americans, living in both urban and rural areas, can acquire a quality education, access virtual health care tools and participate in the full promise of the 21st-century digital economy.”
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner said, “Today’s strong bipartisan vote in the Senate to pass infrastructure legislation will provide the investment needed to improve our country’s roads, bridges, railways, and ports and to support the competitiveness of American agriculture. The bill’s historic investment of $65 billion for expanding broadband access will help close the digital divide in rural America that has become all too apparent in the past year and a half. With the Senate having acted, we urge the House to take up the infrastructure package without delay.”
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