Blunt Highlights Missouri Infrastructure, Ag Priorities Included in Senate-Passed Appropriations Bill

August 02, 2018

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, touted several Missouri priorities he secured in the Senate-passed minibus appropriations bill. The legislation includes four FY2019 spending bills: Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

“Strengthening our overall infrastructure, especially our transportation network, is vital to boosting economic growth, creating jobs, and increasing competitiveness in communities across Missouri,” said Blunt. “This bill makes another down payment to modernize our infrastructure, with a focus on rural priorities. By investing resources to expand rural broadband, this bill takes important steps to help farmers, students, and businesses in rural areas compete and succeed. The agriculture industry is a key economic driver in our state, and this bill funds research, conservation, and other programs that will help Missouri farmers maintain their competitive advantage. Access to quality health care is also a unique challenge facing rural communities. By directing resources toward fire, police, and medical facilities, the bill aims to improve emergency response times, expand health care, and improve the quality of life in rural areas. I’ll continue supporting policies that address our state’s infrastructure needs and help families get ahead.”

Following Are the Missouri Priorities Blunt Secured in the Minibus Appropriations Bill:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies:

• Agricultural Research – The bill provides $2.73 billion to support agricultural research conducted by land grant and non-land grant universities and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). This amount includes $405 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a $5 million increase over FY2018. ARS funding will support programs at the University of Missouri, Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Lincoln University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ARS facility in Columbia, Mo.

• Farm Service Agency (FSA) – The legislation provides $1.63 billion for the FSA. It also prohibits the closure of FSA county offices and provides key resources for personnel and information technology improvements across county offices. Farmers and ranchers in Missouri and across the nation rely on the FSA for various programs, including disaster relief, conservation, and emergency loans.

• Natural Resources Conservation Service – The bill provides $879.1 million to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land. It also includes $150 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, which provides funding for the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project.

• Rural Development – The legislation provides $3.8 billion for Rural Development, including an additional $825 million in funding dedicated to infrastructure investments in rural America.

o Water & Electric Infrastructure – The bill includes $1.25 billion for USDA Water and Waste grants and loans to improve infrastructure in rural areas, and directs the secretary to prioritize communities that have the greatest infrastructure needs. The bill also includes $6.94 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans and $30 million for broadband grants.

o Rural Broadband – The legislation provides $425 million for a new rural broadband pilot grant and loan program. The program will target areas that currently lack access to broadband, and includes provisions that prevent overbuilding existing infrastructure. In addition, the bill provides $33 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants and $20 million to help rural communities combat the opioid epidemic. Click here for more on Blunt’s efforts to end the digital divide, which has left more than 50 percent of rural Missourians without access to high-speed internet.

o Rural Development Community Facilities Grants – The bill supports Rural Development Community Facilities Grants, which fund vital infrastructure including fire, police, and medical facilities, and road construction equipment. Missouri counties that recently received funding include Dent, Scotland, Livingston, Grundy, and Schuyler.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies:

• BUILD Grants – The bill provides $1 billion for BUILD Grants, previously known as TIGER Grants, and requires at least 30 percent of the funding to benefit rural areas. This program has funded critical infrastructure projects in Missouri, including the replacement of the Champ Clark Bridge over the Mississippi River in Louisiana, Mo., and the replacement of the Route 47 Bridge over the Missouri River in Washington, Mo.

• Highway Infrastructure – The legislation provides $49.3 billion for critical highway infrastructure, an increase of $3.3 billion above the FAST ACT authorized level. This increase will provide $79 million more in funding for Missouri roads, bridges, and freight programs. There are more than 3,000 bridges in Missouri deemed structurally deficient.

• Essential Air Service – The bill provides $175 million in discretionary spending, combined with $140 million in mandatory funding, for “overflight fees” to support Essential Air Service communities. Missouri communities that receive Essential Air Service funding include Cape Girardeau, Joplin, and Kirksville. The bill also funds the Airport Improvement Program that recently awarded grants to rehabilitate the runway at Columbia Regional Airport.

• Capital Investment Grants – The legislation provides a total of $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants (CIG), fully funding all current “full funding grant agreement transit projects.” The CIG program provides funds to vital transit projects like the KC Streetcar Expansion Project.

• Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate – The bill includes an amendment that will prohibit the Department of Transportation from implementing the ELD mandate for livestock haulers.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies:

• Water Infrastructure – The bill provides $2.86 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan funds, an increase of $600 million, to help states and localities improve water infrastructure.

Financial Services and General Government:

• Federal Communications Commission (FCC)/USDA Coordination – The legislation encourages the FCC to work with the USDA’s Rural Utility Service to prevent duplication of broadband deployment efforts, optimizing federal resources and promoting broadband deployment in rural America.

• Universal Service Reform – The bill expresses concern regarding fraud, waste, and abuse within the Universal Service Fund (USF) programs, and directs the FCC to prioritize unserved areas in all USF programs.