Lawmakers must address rural infrastructure needs
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Think about all the hard work it takes to run a farm. From early mornings during planting season through late nights during harvest, 3.2 million American farmers are hard at work every year ensuring that every American (and much of the world) has access to affordable and nutritious food.

Now think about what an outrage it is when that work is made more difficult because deficient rural roads right outside of the farm gate lead to costly delays or dangerous accidents.

A recent report released by a nonpartisan research group, TRIP, highlights the dire conditions facing farmers, truckers and other motorists on America’s rural roads.

The report found that over a third of America’s rural roads and bridges – 36 percent – are rated as being in poor or mediocre condition. Beyond that, accidents and fatalities are 2.5 times higher on rural roadways than on all other roadways.

Infrastructure is one of the many issues that unites producers of agricultural equipment, like AGCO, with our customers. When farmers across the country can’t move their product to market, it hurts their bottom line. And when farmers are hurting, so are manufacturers of farm equipment, who support some 320,000 jobs of their own across the country.

There are fresh data points that indicate that addressing infrastructure is a top priority for rural America, too.

A new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that a whopping 93 percent of Americans in rural communities said investment in infrastructure projects were important for improving the job situation in their community, more than any other major policy issue right now.

That figure is underscored by further results finding that a majority of Americans in rural communities (53 percent) said that the area in which they live had experienced a loss of farming, manufacturing or other factory jobs over the last decade. And 56 percent of those same respondents said their community had yet to recover.

Our elected leaders should act without delay to address our rural infrastructure issues. President Trump deserves credit for focusing our national conversation on this topic. Now, Congress should act on a comprehensive infrastructure packages that addresses not only our rural roads and bridges, but also other important priorities for farmers and manufacturers, like expanding access to broadband internet and improving freight rail and inland waterways.

We need bipartisan leadership in Washington to translate the president’s proposal into a legislative reality that works for every American community. Farmers and manufacturers are counting on a moment of commonsense leadership on infrastructure.

The past few years have been trying times for farmers and manufacturers of farm products. Plummeting commodity prices posed real challenges for farm incomes.

But the turnaround is underway. Across the country, farmers are expressing renewed optimism and investing in equipment. We cannot afford to waste this opportunity by failing to seize the moment, and making sure our infrastructure fits the needs of our growing economy, and every American.

Robert B. Crain is a Senior Vice President and General Manager, North America of AGCO Corporation, responsible for the implementation of all business strategies within the US, Canada and Mexico. He is chair of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ (AEM) Government and Public Affairs Committee.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.