January 2020

The Time to Invest in

Rural Infrastructure is Now

Rural America is the backbone of our country. We depend on the food, fiber, fuel and energy produced in rural communities every day. And the success of our rural communities, home to these vital economic sectors, depends upon strong infrastructure, including safe, reliable and affordable electricity and access to broadband.

Unfortunately, our rural communities across the country have seen their infrastructure deteriorate, jeopardizing their jobs, their health and the effectiveness of their businesses.

The ability to produce resources that keep our country moving is critical to America’s international competitiveness. Losing that integrated network will threaten our leadership position in global trade and negatively impact the ability of rural Americans to do their jobs and live their lives.

This is why Farm Credit has helped lead more than 250 organizations nationwide, including the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, in joining together to form the Rebuild Rural Coalition.

These local, regional and national groups are focused on improving rural infrastructure. Their interests span topics including rural broadband, transportation, families, communities, businesses, cooperatives and U.S. agricultural producers.

In the past, urban areas have received the bulk of infrastructure spending. But the infrastructure improvements required in rural America are fundamentally different from those required in urban areas. It’s time to invest and rebuild rural infrastructure.

KEEPING IT CURRENT

Energy and broadband are logical places to start. Rural Americans require reliable, affordable electricity to power their daily lives. They need a modern power grid supporting that distribution. And, as technology advances, they need access to broadband that will connect them to the increasingly globalizing world.

Farm Credit, through CoBank, supports rural electric cooperatives across the country, including BARC Electric Cooperative, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. These are among co-ops that have taken a lead role in broadband. For instance, Central Virginia offers a great example of investing in a significant broadband network. Its ambitious five-year, $110 million project will improve reliability and speed for users while strengthening the resilience of its electric grid.

Projects like this, happening in rural communities around the U.S., will help close that rural-urban divide and make America’s small cities and towns more competitive for jobs and investment.

While federal investment plays a crucial role in repairing and expanding infrastructure, it cannot fully meet the vast diversity of needs. The Coalition believes that the best solution will be comprised of a public-private partnership.

The needs specific to rural America will not simply disappear. It is time we improve rural infrastructure and, in doing so, empower rural communities and strengthen our economy. The time is now.

As Congress considers infrastructure legislation both large and small, rural America deserves a seat at the table. And Farm Credit institutions stand ready to partner with America’s electric cooperatives and others to get the job done.


Todd Van Hoose is president and CEO of the Farm Credit Council. To locate your nearest Farm Credit lending institution, visit farmcredit.com/locations.