With nearly two-thirds of the West experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions, and more than 90 active wildfires burning across the U.S., a national coalition representing thousands of Western farmers, ranchers, water providers, businesses and communities underscored the significance of Senate passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act today and urged the House to mirror the water provisions in its own infrastructure package.
“The Western water provisions included in this package represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a reliable and sustainable water supply that supports our farms, businesses and rural and urban communities. We applaud the bipartisan approach taken by our Senate champions in moving this solution forward at a time of unprecedented drought in the West,” Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen said.
To address critical Western water supply needs, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes more than $8 billion to repair aging dams and canals; build new surface and groundwater storage and conveyance facilities; fund water conservation and recycling projects; and enhance watershed management and improve ecosystems.
“With drought conditions continuing to worsen throughout the West, now is the time to invest and make timely improvements in our nation’s water management portfolio. The diverse investments in Western water infrastructure and our national forestlands included in this package will assist farmers, ranchers, water providers and rural communities impacted by wildfires, water shortages and a changing hydrology,” California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said.
Importantly, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aligns with the solutions water managers across the West have requested for years and provides a balanced package of tools that local and regional managers can select from to best resolve the water needs and challenges in their local communities.
“We need to make major investments, including in water recycling, ecosystem restoration, desalination and storage projects to modernize and upgrade our water infrastructure to ensure local, safe, reliable, high quality water now and in future years. This bipartisan legislation accomplishes that,” Association of California Water Agencies Executive Director Dave Eggerton said.
Changing Western hydrological conditions and expanding populations require immediate federal investments in repairing aging water infrastructure and developing new sources of water supply. The infrastructure package also represents a historic opportunity to aid in the nation’s economic recovery. Both workers and the economy will benefit from the increased demand for equipment and materials these water projects will require from American companies.
“With this vote, the Senate has made a historic investment in water infrastructure, which will pay dividends for our communities, our economy and our environment, both now and into the future. We thank the Senate for its vote and encourage the House to take up and pass this critical legislation,” National Water Resources Association Executive Vice President Ian Lyle added.
“We commend the Senate for taking this historic action. Without access to a safe, reliable and affordable water supply, the long-term viability of our family farms and rural communities in the West are in jeopardy, along with more than 80 percent of all U.S. fruit, vegetable and tree nut production. As the current drought has demonstrated, time is running out, which is why we call on the House to act with urgency and pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act without delay,” Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said.
Other provisions in the Act include:
- Authorization of $303.5 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for roads and bridges over five years;
- Creation of a competitive grant program to address the surface transportation infrastructure of rural communities;
- Codification of the One Federal Decision policy, which establishes a two-year goal for completion of environmental reviews for infrastructure projects;
- Authorization of the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative, which was previously created under the Trump administration. The ROUTES initiative seeks to support the transportation needs of rural communities; and
- Authorization of $42.5 billion to carry out a new grant program administered by the Commerce Department to provide grants to states to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas and help bridge the digital divide.
“We applaud the bipartisanship that went into the passage of this bill and urge the U.S. House of Representatives to do the same, and in short order,” said Agricultural Retailers Association President and CEO Daren Coppock “The need for investment in infrastructure has long been a priority for ARA, and we will continue to work to ensure the needs of ag retailers, their farmer customers, and all of rural America are met.”
The coalition includes more than 220 organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production—nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country—and many of the local and regional public water agencies that supply water to more than 75 million urban, suburban and rural residents.
About Association of California Water Agencies:
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is a statewide association of public agencies whose more than 450 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more than a century, our mission has been clear: To provide comprehensive leadership, advocacy and resources for California public water agencies to ensure a high quality and reliable water supply in an environmentally sustainable and fiscally responsible manner.
About California Farm Bureau:
The California Farm Bureau works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 32,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 5.5 million Farm Bureau members.
About Family Farm Alliance:
The Family Farm Alliance is a powerful advocate for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in seventeen Western states. The Alliance is focused on one mission – To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.
About National Water Resources Association:
National Water Resources Association advocates federal policies, legislation, and regulations promoting protection, management, development, and beneficial use of water resources. The association is dedicated to achieving sustainable water supply for all beneficial uses in an economical and environmentally responsible manner.
About Western Growers:
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Our members and their workers provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including half of America’s fresh organic produce.
About Agricultural Retailers Association:
The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) is a nonprofit trade association representing the interests of retailers across the United States on legislative and regulatory issues on Capitol Hill. As the political voice of agricultural retailers, ARA not only represents its membership but also educates members on the political process and important issues affecting the industry. For more information on current legislative and regulatory issues impacting agricultural retailers, visit www.aradc.org.