The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) applauds the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
“The Senate’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a step in the right direction for rural America and U.S. ag retailers,” said ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock. “The investments included in the IIJA are long overdue and safeguard the ability of the agriculture industry to continue to do its job to bring a safe, plentiful, and consistent supply of food, fiber, and fuel to the American people and the world.”
The bill incorporates the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021, which passed the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously, and the Surface Transportation Investment Act, passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with bipartisan support. It also includes the Senate-passed Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act and the Energy Infrastructure Act, which received bipartisan support in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“We are happy to see the ARA-supported provisions to reform the Farm-Related Restricted Commercial Drivers License Program as well as an apprenticeship-type program for younger commercial drivers ages 18 to 20 to help address the industry’s growing driver shortage included in the language,” said Coppock.
Other ARA-supported provisions include:
- Authorization of $303.5 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for roads and bridges over five years;
- Creation of a competitive grant program to address the surface transportation infrastructure of rural communities;
- Codification of the One Federal Decision policy, which establishes a two-year goal for completion of environmental reviews for infrastructure projects;
- Authorization of the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative, which was previously created under the Trump administration. The ROUTES initiative seeks to support the transportation needs of rural communities; and
- Authorization of $42.5 billion to carry out a new grant program administered by the Commerce Department to provide grants to states to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas and help bridge the digital divide.
“We applaud the bipartisanship that went into the passage of this bill and urge the U.S. House of Representatives to do the same, and in short order,” said Coppock. “The need for investment in infrastructure has long been a priority for ARA, and we will continue to work to ensure the needs of ag retailers, their farmer customers, and all of rural America are met.”