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Ag sector encouraged by infrastructure breakthrough

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SMOOTHER ROAD AHEAD? Details of bipartisan infrastructure deal released as latest hurdle includes waiting for CBO score of costs.
Senate bipartisan package includes $65 billion for broadband, $17.3 billion for ports and $110 billion for roads and bridges.

After securing an agreement on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, Senate negotiators worked through the weekend to finalize the legislative text of over 2,700 pages. The bill could come up for a vote this week, but still needs to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 67 to 32 to invoke cloture and cut off debate on a motion to proceed to the bipartisan infrastructure proposal. The procedural motion, which needed 60 votes, had support from 17 Republicans as well as all 50 Democrats. If CBO finds a shortfall between the revenue and spending provisions, senators will need to scramble to make up the difference as much of the recent discussion focused on how to pay for the investments.

Specifically of note for those in the ag sector, the bill provides $17.3 billion for ports and waterways, $65 billion for broadband and support for middle-mile deployment efforts, and $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., says about 83% of the bill’s formula transportation funding would go to highways and roughly 17% would go to transit.

“On behalf of America’s farmer co-ops, I commend the Senate for voting to move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure package,” says Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council for Farmer Cooperatives. “This legislation provides a much-needed investment in the roads, bridges, railways, waterways and ports vital to ensuring the strength and resiliency of the food and agriculture supply chain. In addition, the package makes an historic investment of $65 billion to bring broadband access to millions who lack it, including much of rural America.”

The bill also contains a provision of $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay through the Environmental Protection Agency. Choose Clean Water Coalition Director Kristin Reilly says it will serve as a “shot in the arm to move us closer to the 2025 deadline to have all pollution reduction practices in place as part of the Bay’s pollution diet, known as the Chesapeake Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load).”

As the Senate proceeds with consideration of the bill, NCFC urges support for the measure and calls on the House to take up the legislation without delay. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she will not bring it up until the Senate passes the $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" package, which may also hold up supporting Republican votes in the Senate.

Related: Will bipartisan infrastructure bill make it across the finish line?

While the Biden administration says its “human infrastructure” package would cost taxpayers $3.4 trillion, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in an independent analysis estimates the true cost to be closer to $5 trillion. Assuming the major provisions will be made permanent and continue through the 10-year budget window, the group says, the “policies under consideration could cost between $5 trillion and $5.5 trillion over a decade.”

Ag equipment manufacturers see big boost

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers calls for Congress to advance the infrastructure bill after a recent study commissioned by AEM and released by HIS Markit found more than 100,000 jobs can be created if the bipartisan bill and five-year surface transportation reauthorization cross the legislative finish line. These are high-skilled jobs in primarily rural areas that pay an average annual income of $88,000, which is 35% above the current national average.

The IHS Markit methodology assumes new infrastructure spending will occur over eight years, beginning in 2022, with three quarters of the spending taking place during the first five years. Finally, it assumes that the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 will pass in the fall of 2021 at a five-year total investment of $303 billion. From 2022-2024, equipment manufacturers and supporting industries will generate over $27 billion in output as a result of the proposed investments.

“The bipartisan infrastructure framework agreed to by the White House and a group of senators, coupled with a five-year surface transportation reauthorization, is vital for the 2.8 million men and women of the equipment manufacturing industry, for their families and communities, for the U.S. economy and for bipartisanship in this country. The data shows that it would also create nearly 500,000 new manufacturing jobs overall, generate over $2 billion in new federal, state and local tax revenue from the equipment manufacturing industry, and result in an additional $27 billion in overall economic output,” says Kip Eideberg, AEM senior vice president of government and industry relations.

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