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Rebuild Rural Coalition – Infrastructure Update

Dear REBUILD RURAL Coalition (RRC) Members,

Welcome to November!  With the mid-term elections upon us, new research suggests continued economic disparity between rural v. urban areas in the United States and there’s plenty of talk on the campaign trail regarding significant infrastructure legislationbeginning in 2019.  A few updates below as millions of Americans head to the polls:

1)  NEW: PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNS WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: On October 23, President Trump signed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law. This came after the Senate passed the bill on Oct. 10 by a vote of 99 to 1 and the House pass their version of the bill back in June by a vote of 408 to 2. The law authorizes more than $6 billion in spending over the next 10 years for water infrastructure projects, including $3.7 billion in new spending for the Army Corps of Engineers. The law also authorizes funding to expand the country’s water storage capabilities, upgrade wastewater, drinking and irrigation systems, as well as authorize or reauthorize water infrastructure projects and programs. The act will also deauthorize $4 billion in water resources development projects that Congress deems are no longer viable for construction due to a lack of local support, a lack of resources or when they deem that the project is no longer relevant or feasible. To read more specifics about the law click here and here.

2)  NEWUSDA HOSTS EVENT ON PRECISION AG: On October 29, USDA hosted the “Broadband and Precision Agriculture Roundtable.” The event focused on discussion around the potential of digital technologies in agriculture and the on-going challenges and opportunities associated with the deployment of these technologies. The event also highlighted the need to continue to expand broadband connectivity to rural communities. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue provided opening remarks, also in attendance from USDA were Anne Hazlett (Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development), Deputy Secretary Steve Censky and Jannine Miller (Senior Advisor to the Secretary). Among the attendees that were invited to attend were representatives of several; commodity groups, broadband providers, technology companies, Land-Grant universities, farm-startups.  Rebuild Rural Coalition partners included: the American Farm Bureau FederationThe National Association of Wheat Growersthe National Pork Producers Council, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Growers Association, the Association of Equipment ManufacturersNTCA – The Rural Broadband Association,  Agricultural Retailers Association and United Fresh Produce Association. To view the agenda for this event click here.

3)  NEW: DOT ANNOUNCES BUILD GRANTS FOR RURAL AREAS: On Oct. 23 Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that applications for BUILD grant money from rural areas more than doubled this year, following what Chao said was “extensive outreach” from DOT. “And, in fact, the department had two and a half times as many rural applications to its BUILD grants this year compared to last year, making up nearly 60 percent of all applications. And as a result, the Department of Transportation is awarding more resources than ever to rural America,” Chao said. To read more about the build grants click here and here.

4)  NEW: SOY TRANSPORTATION COALITION REPORT IMPACTS OF DREDGING LOWER MISSISSIPPI: A study conducted by Informa Economics on behalf of the Soy Transportation Coalition looks at the economic benefits to dredging the 256-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, LA, to the Gulf of Mexico to 50ft and the subsequent economic benefits that would occur if this were to be undertaken, including decreased shipping costs for commodities and other freight that uses the Mississippi river as route of transportation. The report also show the impact that this would then have on soybean basis in state along the Mississippi. To read the press release for this report click here and to full report click here.

5)  NEW: USDA-RD ANNOUNCES COMMUNITY FACILITIES DIRECT LOAN RECIPIENTS: On October 8, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced that the USDA is investing $181 million in 88 projects that will build community infrastructure and facilities in 27 states. The projects are estimated to help improve the quality of life for 1.1 million rural residents. To read more about click here. To see a list of the project that received funding click here. And to learn more about USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan Program click here.

6)  NEW: “INFRASTRUCTURE” ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: With midterm elections almost upon us many candidates for state and federal offices have talked about infrastructure being one of their key issues, if elected. This includes 64 of the 73 candidates for running for governor as well as many candidates running for the House of Representatives, including Rep. Peter DeFazio of OR, Rep. Sam Graves of MO and Jeff Denham of CA, all possible future Chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of OR, and member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is also exploring the idea of creating a subcommittee on infrastructure with his colleagues on Ways and Means and stakeholders around the country. To read more click here and here.

7)  NEWRAND CORPORATION RELEASE STUDY ON WATER AND TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE: In a 130 page report the RAND Corporation looks at how infrastructure spending and investment have changed over time. The report concludes that the state of U.S. infrastructure is not as dire as it often is portrayed, while also making recommendations for funding infrastructure improvement projects over the next 10 years. Their main augment for their conclusion is that while Federal spending on infrastructure has largely decreased since the 1950, the difference has largely been made up by State and local government. Although rural infrastructure was not a subject covered in their research they do acknowledge that “Communities with declining tax bases struggle to maintain their roads, bridges, and water systems and repay their debts to bond holders.” To read about the report click here and to read the full report click here.

8) UPCOMING: NTIA’s BROADBAND USA WEBINAR ON BROADBAND TRANSFORMING HEALTHCARE: On Wednesday November 14 at 2 to 3 ET Broadband USA will be hosting a webinar on the critical role that broadband access has played in advancements in telemedicine and telehealth. The webinar will explore innovations in telehealth and telemedicine applications and programs that two leading universities have developed to improve patient health in their states, especially in rural and remote areas. To register for the webinar click here.

9)  NEW: REPORT CALLS FOR NEW METHOD TO GATHER BROADBAND DATA: On Oct 8, the Center for Rural Affairs released a report that highlights how the FCC and state-based counterparts are “making critical decisions based on incomplete information,” often resulting in overstatement of broadband availability in rural areas. For fixed systems, internet service providers file lists of Census blocks in which they “can or do” provide service in at least one location. That means if one household in a Census block has service, the entire block is listed as served. To read the full report click here.

10) UPCOMINGWEBINAR ON TRANSPORTATION BALLOT MEASURES: Join The Eno Center for Transportation the day after the election for a webinar that reviews the results of the over 290 transportation-related ballot measures totaling over $52 billion in potential investment. For more information and to register for the webinar click here.

11) NEW: USDA’s NEW LOW INCOME HOUSING TOOL: On October 25, the office of Rural Development at USDA announced enhancements to the Single Family Housing (SFH) Direct Eligibility Assessment tool found on the USDA Income and Property Eligibility Site. The site helps customers make a preliminary determination of income and property eligibility for USDA homeownership loans.

12) NEWREPORT FINDS GROWING DIVIDE BETWEEN RURAL AND URBAN AMERICA: On new study conducted by the Economic Innovation Group looks at the “reshuffling” of American communities following the great recession. The study finds that even though many communities have recovered or grown since the great recession and the total number of American enjoying prosperity has also grown, this growth has largely been uneven over the last ten years. The report states that “While the overall population in distressed zip codes declined, the number of rural Americans in that category increased by nearly 1 million.” For more information and to read the full report click here.

13) ON-GOINGPLEASE CONTINUE TO UTILIZE #RebuildRural: With Congress returning for a few weeks, please help us promote the need to rebuild rural infrastructure by using #RebuildRural in your social media posts. Together we can show a groundswell of support for the needs of rural communities. 

14) ON-GOING: As a reminder, please continue to review the Rebuild Rural Coalition’sbranded content (Fact SheetsCoalition partnerslinks to social media engagement, etc.) and offer feedback.  In particular, please review the “Our Partners” tab and make sure your respective organization is properly displayed and linked to.  We look forward to enhancing its utility to our collective membership and please feel free to incorporate into your respective social media platforms.

Thank you very much for your continued partnership and collaboration toward REBUILD RURAL Coalition activities.  As always, Please feel free to contact us at boone@fccouncil.com or (202) 879-0855 with any questions or concerns.

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