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House passes $1 trillion infrastructure bill; ag groups react

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The House of Representatives voted late Friday night 228 to 206 to approve the bipartisan infrastructure package, called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The Senate already passed the bill back in August by a vote of 69 to 30, clearing the way for legislation to become law, assuming the president signs it. This would be the biggest investment in roads and bridges in decades. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes funding important to farmers and ranchers — including $17.3 billion for the nation’s ports and inland waterways and $2 billion specifically for rural broadband access. New spending in the bill is paid for through unused COVID relief funds, bonds and extensions of various government fees, and the bill does not include tax increases for individuals or farms.

Several major agricultural groups spoke up about the bill’s passage. Here’s what some of them said:

National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington said, “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. This is a once in a generation infrastructure investment that will help farmers for years to come.”

The association explained that 60% of corn exports move on the inland waterways system, the maintenance of that system is vital for the global competitiveness of U.S. farmers. The funds dedicated to providing broadband access specifically for rural areas will be meaningful for corn growers who rely on this access for marketing crops, using precision technologies and running their business.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “While AFBF was disappointed with the unnecessary delays in the House of Representatives, we appreciate Congress finally passing crucial bipartisan infrastructure legislation. We cannot afford to ignore the millions of miles of roadways, waterways and railways rural America relies on to keep our country fed, especially as we see widespread supply chain challenges.

“Extending broadband to rural communities is just as much a priority. A quarter of America’s farm families have no high-speed internet access while working to meet the needs of a growing world. Investments in physical infrastructure like broadband will be critical to bridging the digital divide.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Executive Director of Government Affairs Allison Rivera said, “The infrastructure package includes several key provisions that NCBA has long advocated for, including funding for the modernization of roads and bridges, funding for high-speed rural broadband, congressional commitment to the improvement of the federal permitting process for critical water-related investments and an additional 150 air-mile exemption for livestock haulers on the destination of hauls, providing much needed flexibility under current hours-of-service regulations.

“The ability for cattle producers to efficiently raise cattle, haul them safely and compete in a fast-paced global marketplace has a direct link to the economic stability of rural communities and a resilient food supply chain. We look forward to the president signing the bill and stand ready to ensure proper implementation.”

The bipartisan infrastructure plan will head to the president to be signed into law.

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