In Senate Ag hearing on Farm Bill implementation, Senator highlights key issues important to rural communities in Minnesota, across nation
Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) told U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, that improvements to the dairy program and to rural health care passed as part of last year’s bipartisan Farm Bill, should be implemented as soon as possible to help get the farm and rural economy back on its feet.
On Thursday, Sen. Smith, in a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, also pressed Sec. Perdue to prioritize broadband mapping to accurately reflect broadband availability across the nation, and work to develop a consumer challenge process.
“One issue related to rural broadband which is a core economic issue of course all over the country and in rural Minnesota, is the basic data about where we have coverage and where we don’t have coverage. I hear from a lot of people in Minnesota that the maps often look as though ‘I’m covered but I don’t have coverage.’ So can you tell me what the USDA can do to help make sure that people aren’t overlooked because of inaccuracies in these maps?” Sen. Smith asked Perdue.
Perdue responded by agreeing that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maps are often inaccurate. Sec. Perdue said that in response, the USDA is conducting their own data collection and developing partnerships in state rural broadband departments to find out where to deploy broadband in unserved areas.
With recent worrisome reports from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis showing farm bankruptcies on the rise, Sen. Smith called for the dairy program improvements she helped pass in the 2018 Farm Bill to be quickly implemented. Sec. Perdue complimented those improvements and agreed with Sen. Smith that producers in Minnesota and across the country should enroll quickly in the improved program.
Sen. Smith also pressed Sec. Perdue on when a rural health liaison position made possible by her bipartisan Rural Health Liaison Act legislation with Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) included in the final 2018 Farm Bill, would be filled so that the USDA can better work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other agencies on rural health issues.