Improving Rural Infrastructure, Including University R and D, Attracting National AttentionSun, 28 Feb 2021 11:19:34 CST
Improving rural infrastructure and the vital role it plays in our rural communities was front and center during a panel discussion at the virtual NASDA Winter Policy conference this week.
The panel was chaired by Robbie Boone, senior vice president and general counsel, Farm Credit Council, (the Farm Credit Systemís trade association).
Boone said there has been a need to focus on rural infrastructure going back to before the Trump administration.
He noted they have already received positive feedback from the Biden administration about improving the infrastructure.
There are strong signals coming out of the Capitol that infrastructure is next on the priority list after getting the pandemic under control, Boone said.
Other panel members included Doug Steele, vice president for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources for the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, Max Fisher, vice president, economics and government relations for the
National Grain and Feed Association and Matt Wohlman, senior director of state and industry affairs, Land OíLakes, Inc.
We are challenged right now by an aging infrastructure, Steele said. He noted that almost 37 percent of the nationís agriculture college and research infrastructure square footage is over 50 years old.
We are reaching a critical time where we can no longer repair but rather must tear down and rebuild, Steele said.
The new construction is needed to meet the demands of climate, soil health and other new challenges facing agriculture and the environment, Steele said.
A 2015 study indicated the nationís Land Grant universities have about an $8.4 billion deficiency in deferred maintenance, Steele said.
Even more noticeable is the fact that the study was updated last fall and that number has now grown to $11.5 billion, he said.
Steele said ag economists believe that for every $1 invested in ag research we see a benefit of $20.
Our current level of spending for ag extension and research is at the same level as it was in 1980, Steele said.
This type of spending is an investment in our rural communities and helps stimulate the local economy, he said.
He noted the U.S. has dropped out of the top five countries investing in ag research and development and China, just in 2016 alone, outspent the U.S. in this area by nearly $3 billion.
Steele added investing in rural infrastructure can add an immediate 200,000 jobs, mostly in construction.
To hear more of the panel discussion, click on the listen bar below.
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