People may remember when many rural households didn’t have electricity or running water. Although those days are long gone for most, some American infrastructure is in disrepair.
This is why President Trump has made it a priority to rebuild America’s infrastructure. He proposes to devote $50 billion, which is 25 percent of new federal money, to improving infrastructure in rural America. This is an unprecedented commitment. His proposal will stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next decade.
I am delighted to share with you some great news right now. Included in the FY 2018 budget bill is an investment of $600 million in rural broadband. USDA will use this money to administer a new program that will begin to meet the administration’s goals of bringing reliable and affordable broadband to rural American homes, businesses, farms, schools and health-care centers. Today, 80 percent of 24 million American households that do not have 21st century high-speed internet are in rural areas. That is unacceptable.
Every day, I see firsthand the tremendous difference USDA has made over the decades by investing in rural infrastructure and forming strong partnerships with local business and civic leaders. For example, when USDA partnered with Bremer Bank and the Baldwin Area Medical Center to use a $35 million combined loan to build a state-of-the-art Critical Access Hospital, it enabled the hospital to continue to treat and serve countless rural residents in northwest Wisconsin.
Last year alone, USDA spending on infrastructure helped nearly ten thousand families find affordable housing, almost 60 businesses create or retain 1,000 jobs, and more than 100 communities modernize their water and waste systems, benefiting about 45,000 residents. USDA investments improved the quality of life in areas in need. And we will do more in the years ahead.
Throughout my term, I will be meeting with local leaders and rural residents to learn about infrastructure needs and concerns. I want to hear about what’s working and what we can do better. Please call me or our team of specialists in Stevens Point, Wis. to tell us about your local infrastructure needs. Our number is 715-345-7600.
Together, we can ensure that the USDA’s spending on rural infrastructure will create jobs, provide economic opportunities and help ensure that rural communities continue to be great places to live, work, start a business and raise a family.
– Frank Frassetto is state executive director of Wisconsin Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture