The U.S. Senate advanced a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, a measure that would have a dramatic and long-last impact on the expansion of rural broadband and the accessibility of American waterways to transport grains and other agricultural products.
The historic measure was approved 69-30 by the full Senate and is next being weighed by the House of Representatives, where sources suggest its fate is less certain amid pressure from Democrats for even more spending.
While not every aspect of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act got support from agricultural organizations, there were broad waves of praise for the bill’s underlying initiatives
“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,” said President of the National Corn Growers Association John Linder. “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.”
The NGCA highlighted these aspects of the bill:
- $17.3 billion for the nation’s ports and inland waterways. With 60 percent of corn exports utilizing these waterways, NCGA and coalition partners have a track record of advocating for these key resources.
- $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 percent of farmers don’t have access to internet service, an important tool for marketing crops and planning for planting season.
“Whether it’s shipping corn and corn products on America’s highways and waterways or using technology to order supplies or sell crops, farmers rely on a safe, stable and reliable national infrastructure,” Linder said. “Corn growers need these investments in infrastructure to continue to be successful and competitive globally.”
Another agricultural advocacy group, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, also had a positive reaction:
“We are pleased to see the Senate has passed an infrastructure package that will benefit American cattle producers. Investments in infrastructure are critical to ensure that those in rural America, including farmers and ranchers, have the necessary resources to operate the businesses that serve as the backbone of rural economies,” said Executive Director of Government Affairs Allison Rivera. “We see this legislation as a step in the right direction.”
The House, so far, appears to be moving quickly on the measure, and it’s expected that several amendments will be at least suggested, if not included, with the vote.
Corn growers would have liked to see certain amendments addressed before the full Senate vote, including support for the use of higher ethanol blends.