By TIM ALEXANDER
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The bipartisan “Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act” (HR 3684), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, Nov. 5, will provide $548 billion in additional infrastructure spending when signed into law by President Joseph Biden. Combined with existing baseline infrastructure spending, total infrastructure spending will be boosted to around $944 billion over the coming five years and $1.2 trillion over the next eight years.
Reaction to the passage of the historic legislation from the agriculture and transportation sectors was immediate and supportive.
“This is a transformative, historic investment for America as President Biden delivers on his promise to rebuild the physical infrastructure of our country, grow the economy for decades to come, create good-paying, union jobs, and better position us to compete in a global economy,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As we repair crumbling roads and bridges and make much-needed investments in our ports, waterways, and rail transit, we will connect agriculture and rural communities to more markets and more economic opportunity. Upgraded power infrastructure, environmental remediation, and clean and safe drinking water will power and revitalize communities historically left behind.”
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said the STC is “pleased” with the passage of HR 3684, which had been previously approved by the U.S. Senate in a 69-30 vote. He noted that the additional support could help prevent a catastrophic failure at one of the nation’s locks and dams, many of which were constructed in the 1930s. Such a failure, Steenhoek said, would “suffocate” farmers’ ability to meet the demands of international customers.
“The significant number of structurally deficient and load restricted bridges in rural America (also) imposes significant detours and, as a result, millions of dollars of unnecessary costs into our food delivery system,” Steenhoek added. “We are pleased to see this legislation become a reality. A number of the key provisions of the bill – specifically the $110 billion in funding for roads and bridges and the $17 billion for ports and waterways – will clearly enhance the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.”
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch also applauded the House passage of the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” He cited surface transportation provisions within the bill as having particular importance to the fertilizer industry, including $110 billion for highway programs of which $12.5 billion will be invested into bridges.
“All fertilizer utilized in the United States touches a truck at least once, meaning that reliable and safe highways, roads and bridges are of paramount importance,” Rosenbusch said.
The bill also includes $65 billion in investment into high-speed internet for underserved communities, many of them rural.
“As we make significant progress in closing the digital divide and delivering 21st century broadband, farmers will have access to real-time information and new technologies needed to maintain their competitive edge, small businesses will be able to develop their markets, and rural communities can become better connected to jobs, telemedicine, and distance learning,” said Vilsack.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill is also a win for the climate, according to Daniel Bresette, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. ““The infrastructure bill will fund critical projects to modernize the electricity grid; boost energy efficiency in our homes, schools, and commercial buildings; accelerate the pace of electrification across the transportation sector; help communities prepare for and withstand climate change impacts; and expand broadband internet access — an important facilitator for many climate change solutions — in low-income communities and rural areas,” he said.
It is unclear when Biden might sign the bill into law. Steenhoek suggested there may be more work to do to reconcile a final version of the legislation.
“According to the agreement between moderate and progressive Democrats, the Build Back Better bill will be debated later in the month. A group of moderates have committed to supporting the legislation if the upcoming Congressional Budget Office assessment conforms with the earlier cost and revenue analysis released by the White House,” Steenhoek said. “During this period of rising inflation, we need to ensure that our transportation system moderates costs, rather than inflaming them. It therefore is very timely for Congress and the President to pass and sign a robust, multi-year infrastructure bill.”
HR 3684 SUMMARY:
The major funding categories for the “Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act” are as follows:
Transportation Categories ($284 billion; 52% of new spending):
Roads, bridges, and major projects: $110 billion
Includes $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation
Passenger & freight rail: $66 billion
Public transit: $39 billion
Airports: $25 billion
Ports and waterways: $17 billion
Safety: $11 billion
Electric vehicle infrastructure: $7.5 billion
Electric/zero emission buses: $5 billion
Electric/zero emission ferries: $2.5 billion
Reconnecting communities: $1 billion
Other Categories ($256 billion; 48% of new spending)
Electric and power infrastructure: $65 billion
High-speed internet: $65 billion
Clean drinking water: $55 billion
Resilience and western water infrastructure: $50 billion
Environmental remediation: $21 billion
(SOURCE: Soy Transportation Coalition)