WASHINGTON, D.C. — Included in the
$1.2 trillion infrastructure package is money for a massive
upgrade of U.S. roads, bridges and other facilities, but it
also includes items that are important to the nation’s
farmers and ranchers.
The bill, HR 3684, was signed into law
Monday by President Joe Biden.
The Capital Press talked with experts
about what’s in the infrastructure package for farmers and
Water projects: First, the package will invest $8.3
billion in water projects including irrigation
modernization, improved water storage and conveyance,
aquifer recharge and repairs.
Wildfire prevention: Also included is more than $6
billion in wildfire-related investments, including dollars
for prescribed burns, strategic thinning, developing fuel
breaks and converting seasonal firefighting positions to
permanent, year-round positions.
Mine cleanup: Some $16 billion will go toward
pollution clean-up at former mining sites and abandoned
Livestock haulers: Tucked into the bill is a
victory for the livestock industry. Haulers are now granted
a 150 air-mile radius between the origin and destination of
their trip, giving truckers more hours of flexibility.
Before this bill, a driver hauling
livestock could run out of hours under Department of
Transportation rules before reaching a destination, a
problem since live animals can’t be made to wait at a truck
stop until the driver’s clock resets.
“This is a big deal,” Lia Biondo,
interim vice president of the United States Cattlemen’s
Association, wrote in an email to the Capital Press.
More truckers: The bill also invests in a pilot
project aiming to draw women and young people ages 18 to 20
into truck driving.
Michael Dykes, president and CEO of
the International Dairy Foods Association, said this is an
important step toward fixing “constraints in trucking,
including insufficient truck drivers.”
Not everyone is convinced the plan
will work. One policy expert said companies have already
raised wages and benefits to attract new drivers with little
success. He said “only history can tell” if the pilot
program will work.
Roads, bridges: The bill invests $110 billion in
U.S. roads and bridges. What percentages of that funding
will go toward rural versus urban roads, however, is not yet
Power grids: Some $5 million is tied to Oregon Sen.
Ron Wyden’s Disaster Safe Power Grid Act if it passes. It
would create a matching grant program to incentivize utility
companies to secure their power grids against natural
disasters and to prevent fires.
Klamath habitat: Some $162 million will go toward
Klamath habitat restoration work by the U.S. Fish and
School funding: The bill also invests $870 million
in the nationwide Secure Rural Schools program, which is a
lifeline for school districts that lost federal timber money
when the industry was throttled by harvest reductions
related to environmental laws.
Ports: It also invests $17.3 billion in ports and
inland waterways, a move farm groups have widely praised.
Internet: The package includes $65 billion in
broadband internet investments, of great importance to rural
areas. According to the Federal Communications Commission,
more than 26% of rural Americans lack access to broadband
internet compared to less than 2% of urban Americans.
Critics of the package say that
although the bill makes worthy investments, it may “heap
more fuel on the inflation fire” by intensifying demand on
labor and building materials when both are already in short
supply. Advocates, in contrast, say infrastructure projects
are too crucial to wait and add that many projects won’t
begin until 2023, when inflationary pressures may have
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