Biden Decries Consolidation and Touts Rural Investments at Minnesota Farm
The funding includes $1.7 billion for Agriculture Department conservation programs, $1.1 billion in infrastructure loan and grant awards for rural communities, and $2 billion for Rural Partners Network economic development projects.
"When rural America does well, when Indian country does well, we all do well," Biden said at Dutch Creek Farms at Northfield, Minnesota.
The rural message comes as Biden is trying to loosen the GOP grip on rural areas with control of the White House and both houses of Congress very much in play next year.
The new conservation and energy funding Biden said, will give farmers additional revenue streams by allowing them to produce renewable energy or take advantage of conservation programs.
He criticized consolidation in the meat processing and retail grocery industries, which he said has limited farmers' powers to bargain. He said the nation has lost more than 400,000 farms and over 141 million acres of farmland in the past four decades.
"Instead of doing what they have to do — depending on one income stream, being at the mercy of the commodity markets and the big corporations — under our plan, farmers can diversify and earn additional income," he said.
Biden said the goal of the funds are to "grow the economy from the middle out and bottum up," the same language often used by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to describe the administration's approach to rural America. Biden said trickle-down economics has "hollowed out Main Street, telling farmers the only path to success was to get big or get out."
Biden also touted USDA's use of American Rescue Plan money to fund the construction and expansion of small and medium-sized meat processing plants, which he said have helped to improve competition.
He called on Congress to fill his request to bolster the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps millions of Americans pay for their broadband bills, with $6 billion in additional funding. The program is set to run out of funds sometime next year.
"We need your help," Biden said. "That program is running out of funds. I sent Congress a request for more funding and they should act now."