The U.S. government will put field staff in more than two dozen rural communities to provide an on-the-ground link between local leaders and federal economic development programs, said the White House on Wednesday. The Rural Partners Network will be run by USDA but will have a "whole of government" approach, working with 10 federal departments, the EPA and the Small Business Administration, and will expand to all 50 states if Congress provides additional funding.
Rural infrastructure projects across the country will receive a combined $5.2 billion in federal grants and loans to expand access to high-speed internet, electricity, and clean water, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday.
The $1.2-trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress over the weekend will upgrade U.S. roads, bridges and ports while making high-speed internet available through the nation, said President Biden. An estimated one-third of rural households lack access to the internet at what the White House described as minimally acceptable speeds.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the USDA would spend up to $1.15 billion to bring high-speed internet services to people living in rural communities. The money would be available in loans and grants to providers who offer service with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second in areas that lack high-speed internet.
The White House is currently vetting possible nominees for key sub-cabinet positions at the USDA, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a teleconference on Thursday. "I suspect we will be seeing nominees soon on some of those vacancies."
Three months ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the USDA would commit $500 million to expand meat and poultry processing capacity and create a more competitive livestock market. "I believe it is going to leverage literally billions of dollars in investment from investors and local governments," said Vilsack at a meat locker plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Projects in 12 states will receive a combined $167 million in USDA grants and loans to deploy broadband infrastructure in parts of rural America lacking sufficient access to high-speed internet service, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.
President Biden said the $1.2-trillion infrastructure package negotiated with senators on Wednesday will "deliver high-speed internet to every American home" as well as repairing or rebuilding roads and bridges nationwide.
The Biden administration could "impose a significant financial burden" on farm families with its proposal for stricter application of capital gains taxes, said House Agriculture chairman David Scott on Wednesday. Scott also said any increase in estate taxes "for those taking over farmland is untenable."
Thirty Democrats in the House and Senate, in a letter to congressional leaders working on broad-scale climate and infrastructure legislation, called for "a substantial investment in farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as part of the climate solution."
Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday proposed a three-year program with $7.35 billion in funding to bring broadband access to rural America. The bill would focus on the most remote and least served areas.
Lawmakers should increase funding for the USDA's land stewardship programs as part of the administration's infrastructure bill because funding will probably be tight when Congress writes the 2023 farm bill, dozens of farm, conservation, and environmental groups said in a letter.
The Biden administration is launching a portfolio of projects to reach its goal of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases on the farm, including a new focus on climate mitigation by the Conservation Reserve Program, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. During an Earth Day teleconference, he rejected the suggestion that carbon sequestration in the CRP was a form of greenwashing. (No paywall)
President Biden proposed $100 billion in his infrastructure plan to make high-speed internet available throughout America, but industry officials said at a congressional hearing on Tuesday that it could cost up to $150 billion to fill the gaps in coverage in rural America, where service is …
The U.S. economy could grow at its fastest rate — 7 percent — in nearly four decades, with the farm sector sharing in the energetic recovery from the pandemic, said CoBank on Thursday. "Many in the agricultural industry are experiencing the best market conditions since 2013," said the lender in a quarterly assessment of the sector.
Closures at meatpacking plants due to outbreaks of Covid-19 have sent shockwaves through the livestock industry. With thousands of confirmed cases among plant workers and operations stuttering across the country, the backlog of animals awaiting slaughter is growing and farmers are running out of options. The bottleneck promises to have long-term consequences for American ranchers and is injecting new urgency into calls for relaxing federal regulations that limit small farmers’ access to livestock processing.(No paywall)
With five cabinet members on hand to testify, Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune said a vast overhaul of U.S. infrastructure should be a legislative cakewalk. “Both sides can come together on this,” he said. “And it can happen this year.”
Some 46 million people live in rural America, scattered across 72 percent of the U.S. landmass, and conditions in many rural communities “are incredibly challenging,” said Anne Hazlett, recently installed as head of the USDA’s rural economic development programs. During a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Hazlett agreed that “resources will be needed” for rural growth but deflected questions about whether more federal dollars should go into the programs.
The think tank Bipartisan Policy Center says public–private partnerships are a viable way for rural communities to pursue infrastructure projects but that this approach may require strategies such as bundling projects into a package that is attractive to investors. “While robust public funding is essential to meeting these urgent needs, rural areas, like their urban counterparts, should be empowered to tap into the financial and technical expertise of the private sector to help deliver infrastructure projects more quickly and at less cost,” says the center.