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Improve rural infra, US agri groups say

More than 200 agricultural organisations signed a letter to President Trump decrying the state of rural infrastructure and urging federal investment.

Deteriorating US infrastructure threatens the country’s position as a leader in agricultural production, more than 200 leading agricultural groups have said.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, the groups called for increased investment in infrastructure ranging from transportation to water treatment and broadband internet, particularly in rural areas.

“Those of us in rural communities have seen our infrastructure deteriorate, jeopardising jobs, our agricultural competitiveness and the health of rural families,” stated the 22 February letter, signed by groups including the American Farm Bureau, the National Grange and the National Farmers Union. “Past infrastructure initiatives often focused on urban and suburban infrastructure while not adequately addressing the unique needs of rural communities.”

The memo called transportation the “most obvious” area in need of improvement in rural communities, saying that a quarter of bridges and many locks and dams are in dire need of repair or modernisation. It also cited clean water, expanded broadband and affordable power as critical rural needs.

The letter called the scope of needed investment “staggering”, saying that federal funding should increase and pair with state and local governments as well as private capital.

During his campaign, Trump called for as much as $1 trillion to be invested in infrastructure. Since taking office, however, the administration has put forward few details, with reports emerging that an infrastructure bill will not be considered until 2018.

Some leading Republicans have pointed to private investment as the solution to rebuilding US infrastructure, as a policy paper issued before the election by two Trump advisors suggested providing tax credits to investors rather than direct federal spending. But such a plan would favour projects with a built-in revenue source, and Republicans representing rural states and districts worry that this would do little outside urban areas.