Farmers for Free Trade on Infrastructure: Major U.S. Ag Groups Call on Bipartisan Working Group and Congressional Leadership to Deliver Infrastructure Package that Focuses on American Agriculture and Supply Chains

Top commodity groups, ports, truckers, waterways, equipment manufacturers, ag finance groups and more ask that infrastructure package “specifically focus on the critical importance of infrastructure to U.S. agriculture and our ability to deliver products to market”

Groups: American agriculture market access “depends on reliable infrastructure in the middle of the country and along the coastlines”; “We cannot afford to delay” infrastructure investments”

(Washington, D.C.) – Leading U.S. agriculture groups today called on the bipartisan working group and Congressional leadership to come together on a bipartisan infrastructure package that they call vital to American farmers and their continued domestic and international market access. The letter comes as negotiations among a bipartisan group of Senators accelerate and Congressional leaders weigh the path forward for infrastructure investments. The letter, which was organized by Farmers for Free Trade, includes support from every step of the U.S. supply chain: from farm groups, to truckers, to waterways, to ports and more.

“American agriculture depends on access to new foreign and domestic markets, and that access depends on reliable infrastructure in the middle of the country and along the coastlines,” the groups write in the letter.“Investing in American agriculture and infrastructure will protect and create jobs. In 2019, 22.2 million full and part-time jobs in America were dependent on the agricultural and food sectors.”

“We ask all members of the 117th Congress to recognize the importance of infrastructure to the health of the nation’s food and agricultural economy and work together to support investments that will allow our workers to remain competitive in a global marketplace.”


The letter focuses on the economic importance of agricultural trade, the importance of infrastructure for ag supply chains and exports, how infrastructure spending will support ag and rural jobs, current deficiencies in ag infrastructure, the benefits of investing in rural broadband and the importance of passing an infrastructure package in our efforts to compete globally.

“The United States cannot afford to delay infrastructure improvements,”the letter states.“Our competitors, including China and Brazil, are making significant investments in infrastructure to improve their competitive position.”

The letter was sent to Senator Rob Portman, Senator Mitt Romney, Senator Todd Young, Senator Thom Tillis, Senator Mike Rounds, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Senator Bill Cassidy, Senator Jerry Moran, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator John Hickenlooper, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Angus King, Senator Jon Tester, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Maggie Hassan, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Mark Kelly. It was also sent to Congressional leaders and the Co-Chairs of the House Problem Solvers Caucus.

The full text of the letter: Link to letter

June 10, 2021

Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Members of the G20 working group, and Problems Solvers Caucus:

We ask that you continue to work together to craft an infrastructure package to support American jobs and strengthen our economy and that this package specifically focus on the critical importance of infrastructure to U.S. agriculture and our ability to deliver products to market. It is essential that infrastructure legislation include much-needed investments in our dams, locks, inland waterways and ports as well as rural highways and roads, bridges, rail, and broadband infrastructure.

Economic Importance of Agricultural Trade
U.S. agriculture is the strongest and most productive in the world; getting products to domestic and international markets quickly and reliably is critical to our economy. Collectively, 20% of American farm revenue comes from exports; for decades, U.S. agriculture has consistently achieved annual trade surpluses. Farm product exports totaled $136 billion in FY2020 and made up approximately 8% of total U.S. exports. Agricultural exports support jobs on farms, in food production, in transportation and manufacturing, and on Main Streets across America.

Importance of Infrastructure for the Ag Supply Chain and Exports
American agriculture depends on access to new foreign and domestic markets, and that access depends on reliable infrastructure in the middle of the country and along the coastlines. Agriculture has benefitted greatly from America’s infrastructure system. Agricultural products are the single largest user of freight services in the U.S., making up 24% of freight services across all modes by tonnage with $3.1 trillion worth of agricultural products moved across all transportation methods in 2018.

– Almost every agricultural freight trip incorporates at least one truck component in the trip from the farm to final destination.
– Our inland waterways carry large volumes of bulk commodities and farm inputs. In 2017, barges on our waterways carried 532.8 million tons of goods worth $220 billion.
– The Mississippi River System is America’s main inland waterways system moving 57% of U.S. corn exports and 59% of U.S. soybean exports in volume as well 72 percent of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) exports.
– An estimated 70% of U.S. agricultural exports and 60% of imports pass through U.S. seaports.

Jobs
Investing in American agriculture and infrastructure will protect and create jobs. In 2019, 22.2 million full and part-time jobs in America were dependent on the agricultural and food sectors. This equates to 10.9 percent of total U.S. employment. Restoring America’s infrastructure system provides a unique opportunity to deliver transportation improvements that directly impact the bottom line for agricultural producers and food companies; while simultaneously providing jobs for Americans who have been harmed during recent economic downturns.

Deficiencies in Current Infrastructure
Once the best in the world, America’s infrastructure is eroding and, with it, American agriculture is losing one of the key advantages we enjoy over other countries. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2021 report card gave America’s infrastructure a grade of C-. Out of the 17 infrastructure categories ASCE assessed, 11 were in the D range. The report notes a substantial maintenance backlog across the system nationwide. In 2019, the U.S. ranked thirteenth in the world in a broad measure of infrastructure quality—down from fifth place in 2002.

– Most locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River System have far exceeded their projected 50-year lifespan. 
– Waterway delays cost over $44 million per year and are increasing in frequency. These costs are ultimately borne by farmers. 
– Modern farming equipment is larger and heavier, putting added strain on rural highways and bridges designed for smaller vehicles; and only 9% of the roadways that connect ports to other modes of transportation are in good or very good condition.
– In recent months, our ports have experienced significant surges and backups that have hampered the ability of American farmers to move products to overseas markets. Recent labor shortages in the trucking industry and shortages of pallets and foreign-owned containers promise to exacerbate these challenges.

While the American Jobs Plan proposes a $17 billion investment in ports and inland waterways, we ask specifically that locks be modernized and that you work towards the $42 billion need identified by ASCE by increasing existing port infrastructure grant programs, investing in new technology and electrification of key terminals, and increasing funding to complete, repair, and maintain Federal navigation channel improvement projects. We similarly ask that you ensure sufficient funding to repair our rural roads and bridges that are so critical to getting farm products to market.

Rural Broadband
Equally concerning is rural America’s limited broadband connectivity and the challenges that presents to our farmers and communities. As with any business, food and agriculture producers need high-speed internet to compete in today’s competitive environment. Reliable broadband enables agricultural producers and agricultural service providers to operate more efficiently, better communicate with customers and suppliers, and access new markets. The Biden Administration’s proposed $100 billion investment in expanded broadband will be a critical step toward meeting this 21st-century need.

Foreign Competition
The United States cannot afford to delay infrastructure improvements. Our competitors, including China and Brazil, are making significant investments in infrastructure to improve their competitive position. Since 2014, costs for major Brazilian ports have decreased and are approximately the same as costs in the U.S. Partially due to these infrastructure improvements, Brazil has eclipsed the United States as the world’s largest producer and exporter of soybeans. Likewise, China realizes the strategic benefit of infrastructure. China’s ambitious investment in infrastructure across the globe is unprecedented and is a way of increasing international political power while undermining U.S. influence.

We ask all members of the 117th Congress to recognize the importance of infrastructure to the health of the nation’s food and agricultural economy and work together to support investments that will allow our workers to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

We appreciate your consideration of this critical matter.

Sincerely,

Agriculture Transportation Coalition

American Association of Port Authorities

American Feed Industry Association

American Seed Trade Association

American Soybean Association

Association of Equipment Manufacturers

CoBank

Corn Refiners Association

CropLife America

Distilled Spirits Council

Farm Credit Council

Farmers for Free Trade

Fresh Produce Association of the Americas

Global Cold Chain Alliance

Hardwood Federation

KCoe Isom LLP

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Grain and Feed Association

National Milk Producers Federation

National Pork Producers Council

National Potato Council

North American Meat Institute

North American Millers’ Association

Port of Virginia

U.S. Apple Association

U.S. Dairy Export Council

U.S. Dry Bean Council

U.S. Peanut Federation

USA Rice

Waterways Council, Inc.


Farmers for Free Trade is a 501(c)(4) non-profit dedicated to informing the public about the benefits of free trade and mobilizing farmers and ranchers to take action to support beneficial trade agreements that expand export opportunities for American farms and ranches. Learn more online at https://farmersforfreetrade.com/

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.

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