Many of us know that in rural America, things can’t continue the way they have been. Our roads, rails, waterways, internet, and much more all need updating. There is much concern that any infrastructure plans will include more funding for larger coastal cities, and leave rural America completely underserved.
Yesterday, President Biden rolled out his infrastructure plan that he calls the American Jobs Plan. The statement from the President says that not only will it improve the infrastructure in parts of the country, but it will also put Americans to work to get it done.
Many groups are calling on the President to remember his campaign promise to not forget about those rural residents in the middle of the country. One of them is the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).
Audio: Full Interview with Kip Eideberg of AEM
Kip Eideberg is Senior VP for Government and Industry Relations at the AEM. Eideberg says that there is much agreement that the time it is past time to start talking about upgrades. The time to start them is now. Rural roads are a good place to start. Thirty percent of rural roads are in poor to mediocre condition. AEM is urging the Biden Administration to not forget about the rural parts of the country.
According to the press release from the White House, the American jobs Plan calls for the upgrade of over 20,000 miles of American roadways of every type and size. It will repair the ten most economically significant bridges in the country while also fixing 10,000 smaller bridges. It also includes monies for upgrading buses, railcars, stations, airports, and expands transit. There has been no official list revealed as to how that breaks down for rural America.
Eideberg also talks about the need for upgrades to water distribution, rural broadband, and affordable housing for underserved people in need. We also need upgrades to the power grid as well. The need for broadband in rural America was put into the spotlight even more than before during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for people to be connected while being at home was at an all-time high. The need for rural Americans to have the same connectivity is essential for life as we know it.
The Biden Administration plan addresses those needs specifically, including the call for upgrades to rural broadband. Getting everybody a high-speed connection. The White House release says:
“President Biden’s plan will eliminate all lead pipes and service lines in our drinking water systems, improving the health of our country’s children and communities of color. It will put hundreds of thousands of people to work laying thousands of miles of transmission lines and capping hundreds of thousands of orphan oil and gas wells and abandoned mines. And it will bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American, including the more than 35 percent of rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds.
“President Biden’s plan will create good jobs building, rehabilitating, and retrofitting affordable, accessible, energy-efficient, and resilient housing, commercial buildings, schools, and childcare facilities all over the country, while also vastly improving our nation’s federal facilities, especially those that serve veterans.”
The bill also provides efforts to give people a wage that they can live on as the cost-of-living increases. It also looks to revitalize the American supply chain and invest in American research & development. Something that the White House says has been severely lacking.
Eideberg says this is not about partisanship. We aren’t looking at upgrading Republican roads and Democratic bridges. It is an American infrastructure that needs attention, and it can benefit all Americans. Eideberg and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers are calling on the government to put partisanship aside and come together to get America upgraded and working again. He adds that these discussions have been going on for decades. This means the Administrations and Congresses of both parties have let this slide for far too long.
The big question has always been how to pay for it. Eideberg says that upgrading the basic needs of Americans and American businesses should not come with a heavy financial burden to individuals and companies who are already underserved by basic infrastructure. He says that all of us need to urge our elected officials to quit putting this aside and get this done.
Eideberg concluded by talking about the over 2.8 million workers in AEM member companies. He says that one in three of these individuals is connected to rural America. The success of the infrastructure is the success of rural communities, and that means the success of rural residents.
AEM is the national trade association for companies like John Deere, Caterpillar, Case New Holland, and Volvo Construction.
Reactions to the President’s announcement have come in from other organizations. Farmers for Free Trade released the following statement:
“We are heartened to see that President Biden’s American Jobs Act invests in American agriculture and rural infrastructure. Restoring America’s infrastructure system provides a unique opportunity to spur economic growth in America’s heartland. Investing in roads, bridges, waterways, locks, ports, and rural broadband means ag products move more quickly and efficiently, reaching consumers at home and abroad. Too often ag jobs are thought of as only on the farm, while in truth they’re at grain terminals, on freight lines, and all across America’s highways and waterways. Rural America needs big, bold initiatives like this to grow and prosper. We call on Congress find a bipartisan path to making major infrastructure investments in American agriculture and rural infrastructure.”
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack added the following comments:
“Just as the American Rescue Plan is helping families recover from the pandemic and recapture hope for a brighter future, the American Jobs Plan will help us rebuild our economy and rural communities and create good-paying jobs with staying power—enough to support a family, have a good home, and give our children a brighter future. President Biden believes this is the moment to reimagine and rebuild our country’s infrastructure and reinvest in American competitiveness and leadership.
“It is clear in the American Jobs Plan that USDA is central to the President’s strategy to build a strong economy for working people, restore the safety and integrity of our nation’s infrastructure from broadband to water to power and electricity, and to renew America’s leadership in science, research, and development to give us the tools to make and create U.S. products to be sold around the world. The American Jobs plan invests in clean, safe drinking water in our rural communities, with specific emphasis on underserved and Tribal areas. The plan promises to close the broadband gap in rural America for millions of Americans, which is so critical for health care, education, and employment in our digital age. The American Jobs Plan makes significant investments in power and electricity infrastructure and affordable housing. The President’s plan invests in our children by upgrading schools, childcare facilities, and early learning centers, with investments in physical infrastructure as well as technology and connectivity. And true to his commitment to invest in American manufacturing and working families, the President’s plan makes once-in-a-lifetime investments to retool and revitalize American manufacturers and small businesses. This investment in manufacturing will allow an expansion of biobased products and renewable fuel production, giving U.S. growers and producers another market for their goods and supporting good-paying American jobs. Finally, the American Jobs Plan puts Americans to work managing our forests, grasslands, and watersheds from the community-level, ensuring what’s good for the environment is good for jobs while protecting our forests from burning up in increasing catastrophic wildfires.
“The American Jobs Plan is a once-in-a-century capital investment in America that will meet our current infrastructure needs and invests in a brighter future. I look forward to working with Congress to make these plans a reality for American workers and rural communities and thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for their vision and commitment to rebuilding the middle class.”