Farm Bill Passes House, Includes Rep. Scott Provisions to Bring Broadband Investment to Rural America
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08), a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit, today released the following statement upon the House of Representatives passing the Conference Report to the 2018 Farm Bill, sending it to the President’s Desk to be signed into law.
Included in the major legislation which contains annual spending for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and provisions concerning crop insurance, rural development, specialty crops and research, extension and education programs, were two amendments offered by Rep. Scott to bring modernization and accountability to broadband services and spur broadband infrastructure investment in rural America.
“I want to first thank Chairman Mike Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson for their leadership during this process, as well as Senator David Perdue, Congressmen Rick Allen and Congressman David Scott, for their part in this process and for their continued support for Georgia farmers,” said Rep. Scott. “For the last several years, Members on both sides of the aisle have worked to make sure our nation’s primary agriculture policy works for, not against, America’s producers. I am confident that this bill delivers reforms our farmers and industry stakeholders desperately need to keep our producers and rural communities growing and innovating for the 21st century.”
“House Republicans refused to stop fighting for rural America and we’ve reached a deal that sets us on a better path – for producers, for rural communities and for American consumers,” said Rep. K. Michael Conaway (TX-11), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “Austin has been a strong advocate for rural broadband and critical voice for production agriculture in this farm bill conference process and I’m thankful for his leadership, which helped get this across the finish line.”
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit, Rep. Scott has oversight of USDA’s rural development programs that meet the health, infrastructure, and economic development challenges facing rural America. His two broadband amendments address:
- Outdated Broadband Systems: This amendment would authorize the USDA Secretary to deem projects that have received Rural Utilities Services (RUS) grants as unserved if they do not meet the minimum broadband speed of ten megabits per second download and one megabit per second upload, unless they have begun or already constructed broadband facilities in that area which would meet the minimum standard. RUS grants for broadband projects have been offered in the past, but unfortunately, they were built to speeds that did not meet expectations and now residents in those communities are stuck with less than adequate access. This amendment corrects this issue and will help to ensure that RUS grants are used for broadband projects that are forward-thinking.
- Middle Mile Infrastructure: This amendment would authorize USDA to make loans and grants to middle-mile broadband projects, which link rural regions to the internet backbone connections needed to provide high speed internet. Middle mile is often the most expensive and riskiest investment for broadband deployment, and this amendment will ensure greater infrastructure investment and connectivity.
Through negotiations, Rep. Scott was also able to secure provisions to maintain the current commodity policy provisions for peanut producers, maintain the commodity policy for seed cotton, improve and expand credit for farmers, and prioritize research and development of additional risk management policies for specialty crops like peaches and pecans.
This was Rep. Scott’s second time to serve on a conference committee for the Farm Bill, which brokers final deliberations to sort out differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. Written about every five years, the Farm Bill is our nation’s primary agriculture policy tool. The current farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, funds farm programs through 2018.