The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is a Victory for Rural Communities and Agriculture

Feb 23, 2022

By Todd Van Hoose

Todd Van Hoose is president and CEO of Farm Credit Council. The Council coordinates the Rebuild Rural Coalition.

In the early months of 2017, organizations from across rural America came together, as has been the rural tradition. With talk of infrastructure funding in the news, they drew on their collective influence to educate Congress on the unique infrastructure needs of rural communities. These efforts led to the creation of the Rebuild Rural Coalition.

For the past five years, more than 260 national, state and local organizations—representing rural families, rural communities, rural businesses and cooperatives and U.S. agricultural producers—held meetings, presented on panels, attended White House briefings, spoke with congressional leadership and testified at House and Senate hearings on the infrastructure gaps rural communities and agriculture face.

And on November 15, our collective efforts paid off: President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. Passed with bipartisan support, this law will positively and directly impact the lives of rural Americans, and it will help strengthen rural communities.

Lawmakers and the president heard our voices when we:

  • shared how rural roads, bridges, locks and dams keep American agriculture competitive despite an increasingly complicated global landscape
  • explained how access to rural broadband enables telehealth visits, saving patients hours of driving to urban areas
  • demonstrated how reliable, affordable energy helps attract and grow jobs
  • highlighted the importance of agricultural research, and how many innovations that extend well beyond the farm gate have been born from our land grant universities
  • discussed the importance of upgrading rural water systems—and how a little funding goes a long way to help provide safe drinking water and improve wastewater facilities
  • shared how America’s rural housing and healthcare facilities desperately need investment to improve quality of life for its residents

Of particular note and importance to the soybean supply chain is the nearly $110 billion for roads, bridges, tunnels and core infrastructure to help the trucks keep rolling. For the trains across our country, a $66 billion investment in rail systems will provide much-needed relief. That includes funds to develop or establish new railroad facilities and to develop landside port infrastructure for seaports serviced by railways.

Grant programs include funding for lengthening of bridges and/or widening of waterways to ease traffic and allow more capacity. Grant funding also will help design and construct barge landings, docks or other waterway infrastructure in rural communities, creating opportunities and keeping transportation affordable and efficient.

This law might feel like a long time coming. Past infrastructure efforts largely funded urban and suburban projects. This time around, Congress and the president heard our voices from rural America. They listened, asked for input—and actually followed our recommendations.

As we watch for these investments to start making a difference in rural America and consider the possibilities in the near-term future, it's important to remember what we accomplished because we came together. The more than 260 organizations of Rebuild Rural. Both parties in Congress working with President Biden. We did it, together.

ASA is an active member of the Rebuild Rural Coalition.