The development and maintenance of an efficient, reliable infrastructure system is critical to the success of American agriculture. To ensure that the necessary investments are made, Agri-Pulse and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) recently held a Rural Infrastructure Summit to address challenges and propose potential solutions.
“Infrastructure is undoubtedly linked to agriculture and rural development,” says Leif Magnusson, the chairman of AEM and president of Claas Global Sales Americas. “Agriculture is the largest user of freight transportation in the U.S. An effective transportation system supports rural communities, reduces the cost for inputs, raises the value of crops, and increases access to markets.”
Unfortunately, the infrastructure that supports agriculture has experienced extreme wear and tear, and the available maintenance budget is shrinking. Rapid increases in fuel efficiency and alternative fuels present long-term challenges for the fuel tax, which is the main source of federal funding used for infrastructure projects. Populations are declining in rural counties, which lowers the tax base, and increasing property taxes to offset declines is extremely unpopular.
This has led to declines in the condition of rural roads and bridges. A recent report showed that 15% of the nation’s rural roads were in poor condition, another 39% were rated in mediocre or fair condition, and 26% of bridges longer than 20 feet in Iowa and Missouri are structurally deficient or obsolete.