Opening Statement: Republican Leader Michelle Fischbach Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee Hearing: Examining Opportunities for Growth and Investment in Rural America
Washington, June 15, 2021
Remark as prepared for delivery:
Like many of you, I represent an extremely rural district. We are among the top ag-producing districts in the nation and are responsible for nearly half of Minnesota’s agricultural sales. My district plays an important role in our country’s ag economy, and there is real value in making sure those rural communities have the tools they need to grow and thrive. That’s why I am so pleased to be here today discussing how USDA Rural Development can aid us in that pursuit.
Over the past couple of months, I have spent a lot of time traveling across my district. I’ve met with local officials, businessowners, farmers, families, and many others – and one thing I can tell you is that rural America is facing many challenges right now, made all the more evident by COVID-19.
The stark reality is that many rural communities are being left behind. The Agriculture Committee has talked frequently and forcefully about the importance of broadband connectivity shortfalls in rural communities. But there are other challenges facing our constituents, including limited access to capital, worker and skill shortages, aging infrastructure, and diminished access to healthcare services.
If we can help meet those needs together, it’s all of our constituents who will reap the benefits. Not only do thriving rural communities benefit the ag economy, they benefit our entire country.
Strong rural communities start with strong connectivity, but the needs of our rural communities do not end with broadband access. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore additional ways by which we can support rural America.
Over the past year, my Republican colleagues and I have offered many proposals, including several with bipartisan support, to bolster rural utility services; expand highspeed broadband programs; rebuild health, education, and public safety infrastructure; and more. We think that infrastructure can and should be a bipartisan success story. But we share Chairman Scott’s deep concern and skepticism about plans to marry bipartisan infrastructure priorities to tax policies which will harm rural communities.
USDA Rural Development plays an important role in growing rural communities and attracting new investment. Whether it’s supporting economic development, assisting with loans and grants for economic development, health care, and infrastructure, or assisting ag producers with their own operations, USDA Rural Development is well-positioned to make a difference for the citizens each of us represent.
I join Chairman Delgado in welcoming all of our witnesses. We appreciate all of the time you’ve spent preparing. The health of rural America can be found in the hard work, innovative thinking, and strong partnerships that each of you bring to your communities. I’m looking forward to today’s discussion.