Dear Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) asks the House of Representatives to expeditiously consider H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This bipartisan bill provides funding for critical infrastructure programs that will allow farmers and ranchers to deliver their products, move their equipment, expand their markets, and access broadband. NASDA represents the commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the state departments of agriculture in all 50 states and 4 U.S. territories.
The U.S. transportation system is in dire need of significant funding. This bill allocates $127 billion for roads, bridges, ports/waterways, and other critical infrastructure that will provide farmers and ranchers with consistent and dependable means to move their products and provide financial sustainability for their business. The bill amends the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, to provide a 150-air-miles exemption from hours-of-service regulations on the backend of hauls. The extra driving radius is needed to provide agricultural haulers extra time and flexibility to perform their job safely in remote areas and to provide ample time for best animal welfare practices before, during, and after transport.
Broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. As the pandemic highlighted, rural communities need broadband access for health care, government services, educational and business opportunities. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 26.4 percent of rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service. This bill provides $40 billion to expand broadband deployment and an additional $2 billion for the USDA ReConnect Program, to expand broadband in rural areas.
NASDA strongly supports the Forest Service’s State Fire Assistance and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs. This bill provides up to $88 million for the State Fire Assistance program and $24 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance program. These programs provide financial and technical assistance to state and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention and suppression. While USDA can provide farmers and ranchers with disaster assistance for wildland fire damage to crops, fencing, and livestock, wildland fire prevention can limit the frequency and severity of fires as well as suppression and recovery costs.
NASDA asks you to consider the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act upon your return from the district work period. It will provide farmers and ranchers with a more consistent and dependable transportation system to move their products and equipment, expand their markets and provide financial sustainability for their business.
Barbara P. Glenn, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer