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Biden visits Minnesota farm to launch rural programs
 
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

NORTHFIELD, MINN. — President Joe Biden visited a Minnesota farm known for its commitment to climate-smart, sustainable agricultural practices to announce an investment of over $5 billion in increased economic development in rural towns and communities. 
As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, the funding will include nearly $1.7 billion in funding to support the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices, as well as $1.1 billion in investments in rural American infrastructure. In addition, $274 million will go towards expanding critical rural high-speed Internet infrastructure, and $145 million will be allocated to expand access to renewable energy and lower energy costs for rural Americans, according to a news release issued on November 1 by the White House. 
More broadly, the announced investment will bolster disadvantaged, impoverished communities, conserve landscapes and assist farmers, according to the White House. “I think it is reflective of President Biden’s belief that your ZIP code ought not to dictate your future,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Biden is very cognizant of the fact that equity needs to be at the center of what we do, in all we do.”
The announcement was followed by a planned two-week press tour attended by top United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials across several states, beginning with Vilsack’s visit to Indiana to speak with FFA members at their national convention in Indianapolis about opportunities for the next generation of agricultural leaders, as well as trips to Wyoming and Colorado.
During his announcement in Minnesota, Biden addressed the issue of competition and supply chain management by acknowledging that four big corporations control more than half the U.S. beef, pork and poultry markets. “Because so few companies control so much of the market, if one of those processing plants goes offline, it can cause massive supply chain disruptions, slowing production and costing farmers big,” the president said, speaking of the importance of supporting family farms in the wake of industry consolidation. 
The funding announcement took place on a farm Biden said exemplified the sort of climate-smart agricultural practices his administration embraces and supports through his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, which committed $19.5 billion over five years towards voluntary conservation programs for farmers and landowners. The funding helps fulfill Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda.
Dutch Creek Farms, where Biden visited, has utilized several climate-smart agriculture techniques to make their farm more sustainable, according to the White House. These practices include growing crops that naturally sequester carbon and improve soil quality, farming in a way that limits soil disturbance and creating riparian buffers to protect nearby waterways from pollutants.
Biden lauded the investment in rural communities, saying it would “advance rural prosperity, economic development, competition, and sustainability.” Biden also appealed to Congress, calling on lawmakers to continue funding the infrastructure law programs that assist with priorities like high speed internet in rural communities.
“We need your help – that program’s running out of funds. I sent Congress requests for more funding, and they should act on it now,” Biden said. “We’re strengthening local food systems so rural communities have better access to affordable, locally grown food, so the farmers who provide that food actually benefit through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
Expanding on his comments about unfair beef, pork and poultry market competition, Biden stated: “Meat producing companies and the retail grocery chains consolidated, leaving farmers with few choices about where to sell their products, reducing their bargaining power. Corporations that sell seed, fertilizer and even farm equipment used their outsized market power to change farmers and charge them and ranchers unfair prices. In part because of these conditions, over the past four decades, we lost over 400,000 farms in America, 400,000, over 141 million acres of farmland. That’s an area roughly equal to the size of Minnesota and North and South Dakota combined. 
“Facing higher costs and earning less, family farms have struggled to make it work, to make the math work. The promise of keeping the farm in the family is slipping out of reach for so many across America. When family farms go by the wayside, small businesses, hospitals, (and) schools that support them, they suffer as well in the community.”
Prior to the Nov. 1 announcement, USDA had made available $900 million to spur the production of independent, American-made fertilizers and spur rural economic development. Those investments were funded in part by Biden’s American Rescue Plan and USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.
“We’re making the most substantial investments in rural America since President Eisenhower,” Biden said. “My plan is about investing in rural America. It’s about something else as well. It’s about restoring pride to rural communities that have been left behind for far too long.”
Thanks to Farm Progress/Prairie Farmer, CNN and MSN for some of this reporting.
11/6/2023