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Opinion: Infrastructure bill would fail to help rural America

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In early August, several agricultural groups spoke up in support of the federal infrastructure bill that passed the Senate. However, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller sees the issue differently and offers his perspective below.

 

It is time Texans and Americans wake from their summer slumber. The U.S. Senate’s recent passage of the massive $1 trillion infrastructure package does not prioritize the livelihoods of American farmers and ranchers. The impact of this legislative stink bomb threatens our economy, our way of life, and our personal liberties. This 2,700-page monstrosity could act as a death sentence to many patriotic Americans working in our agriculture industry.

This so-called “infrastructure” legislation calls for an eye-popping $1.1 trillion in spending, adding $256 billion to the federal deficit and $2,900 per household in national debt.

This bipartisan infrastructure plan supports federal funding for road projects concerning “traffic calming.” Folks, that’s “Washington speak” for deliberately slowing down traffic and creating road congestion. Consequently, this will force people toward public transportation like buses and car sharing. How would that work for the average farmer who owns and relies on multiple vehicles and equipment?

The bill also proposes $135 million on studies and pilot projects for “miles traveled tax.” Instead of being taxed at the gas pump, you are taxed based on the number of miles you drive annually. Another $1 billion would be spent on the Reconnecting Communities Act, a program that tears down highways in big cities. The Biden administration wanted $20 billion for this and radical progressive activists such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are already demanding more.

Washington fails to understand that our highways are our economic engines, not only in Texas but the entire country. For over a decade, our state has been a leader in exports, and we rely heavily on our trade relationships with Canada and Mexico.

Image courtesy of NCBA

Washington politicians are also calling for new spending toward mass transit and intercity rail, even though transit and rail account for a minuscule share of national travel. Activists demand that highways and mass transit receive equal funding. The passing of the Senate bill is a big step in that direction.

It gets worse, the federal government is elbowing its way into the private sector. The Senate version of this bill encroaches into private sector areas of energy­ — greatly impacting rural broadband internet. Some $138 billion would go toward subsidies, mandates, and government operated enterprises. This creates competition with private providers and results in harming the backbone of rural economies.

Washington would also intervene in areas normally left to local government. The Senate bill has $55 billion for local water systems, helping bail out poorly run cities that have neglected aging water systems.

Congress returns in September, and I encourage taxpayers to act now and alert their elected officials in Washington. This sort of federal and financial intervention is something most Americans can do without. The cost of this bill is a burden on rural Americans, with an economic impact that endangers an industry that provides the fuel, fiber, and food that our country depends on.

 

An eighth-generation Texas farmer and rancher, Sid Miller is the 12th Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture. An eighteen-time world champion rodeo cowboy, he has devoted his life to promoting Texas agriculture, rural communities, and the western heritage of Texas.

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