Infrastructure plan targets rural areas

Infrastructure plan targets rural areas

Rural areas would receive $50 billion, or one-quarter of the federal spending outlined last week in the Trump administration’s plan to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure.

The plan, which calls for $200 billion in federal funding over 10 years, will help restore deteriorating infrastructure and keep U.S. farmers competitive in the world marketplace, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“President Trump’s ‘Building a Stronger America’ plan promises to bring long overdue improvements to the country roads, bridges and broader infrastructure that farmers and ranchers depend on to reach customers at home and abroad,” said Duvall, a Georgia beef and poultry farmer. “While past infrastructure plans have left rural America in the dust, this administration has not forgotten the rural communities that form the backbone of our nation.”

Soy Transportation Coalition Director Mike Steenhoek said he hopes the president’s plan will kick off more robust discussions regarding infrastructure system improvements that will benefit agriculture and the overall economy.

“We ap­­preciate how the president’s plan highlights the various modes of transportation that are con­­sequential to farmers,” he said. “The temptation is to focus exclusively on roads and bridges since that is the most tangible to the average American. While roads and bridges are essential to farmers, it is necessary to have a more comprehensive approach that also addresses the needs of inland waterways, ports and rail.”

Attracting investments

The Trump administration’s plan is designed to attract additional investments from state and local governments as well as private businesses, totaling an ambitious $1.5 trillion in proposed spending. It would be designed to leave decisions on how to prioritize the most important projects at the state and local level.

“We applaud the administration for placing the decisions of how these dollars should be spent back at the local level,” Duvall said. “Governors and local officials know their roads and bridges better than anyone, and they are ready to set the priorities for rebuilding rural America.”

Streamlining construction

Some of the new funding would likely come in the form of new tolls on highways and river locks, drawing concern from barge and trucking industries.

The plan would also save money by streamlining the construction process for infrastructure projects, which are often beset by bureaucratic delays and red tape, Steenhoek said.

“The Soy Transportation Coalition believes that not all of our transportation challenges will be solved by the government writing a bigger check. We also need more efficient processes for funding and delivering transportation projects,” said Steenhoek. “While we clearly would like more funding on the revenue side of the equation, there clearly are opportunities for improvement on the cost side of the equation.”  

Infrastructure projects would also include broadband upgrades, which are sorely needed in rural America, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“Our Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity identified infrastructure — and specifically access to high-speed internet — as a key area where rural America must improve,” he said. “In my travels across the country, I have heard from the people in the Heartland, and the overwhelming view is that this is just the type of investment they are looking for to help create jobs, improve education, improve the quality of life and increase overall prosperity.”

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