Iowa bridge

The bipartisan infrastructure legislation would help restore Iowa's bridges. (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

Infrastructure package clears Senate

August 12, 2021 | Bethany Baratta

A $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package passed the Senate earlier this week, a step forward when it comes to investing in infrastructure critical to Iowa’s farmers.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684) passed in a bipartisan vote of 69-30, with every Democrat and 19 Republicans voting in favor. The bill includes $550 billion in new spending, including $110 billion for roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, $17 billion for ports and waterways and $8.3 billion for western water needs.

ISA Director of Public Affairs Michael Dolch says passage in the Senate is a step in the right direction, but the House has yet to consider the bill.

“What passed the Senate would make critical investments across middle America, but we’re certainly not across the finish line yet,” Dolch says.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t consider the package until the Senate considers a “human” or “social” infrastructure package through the reconciliation process.

The major funding categories for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are as follows:

Transportation Categories ($284 billion; 52% of new spending):

  • Roads, bridges, and major projects: $110 billion (includes $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation)
  • Passenger & freight rail: $66 billion
  • Public transit: $39 billion
  • Airports: $25 billion
  • Ports and waterways: $17 billion
  • Safety: $11 billion
  • Electric vehicle infrastructure: $7.5 billion
  • Electric/zero emission buses: $5 billion
  • Electric/zero emission ferries: $2.5 billion
  • Reconnecting communities: $1 billion

Other categories ($256 billion; 48% of new spending)

  • Electric and power infrastructure: $65 billion
  • High-speed internet: $65 billion
  • Clean drinking water: $55 billion
  • Resilience and western water infrastructure: $50 billion
  • Environmental remediation: $21 billion

Investments in infrastructure was a critical component of conversation during ISA leaders’ visit to Washington, D.C., in July.

“The opportunity for us to move our product wherever it needs to go from down the road 5 miles to around the globe—relies on improvements to our infrastructure,” says ISA President Jeff Jorgenson. “Infrastructure has to be more of a priority than it has been.”

Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek said he was pleased with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“A number of the key provisions of the bill – specifically the $110 billion in funding for roads and bridges and the $17 billion for ports and waterways – will clearly enhance the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture,” Steenhoek said.

The Soy Transportation Coalition has been lock-step with the Iowa Soybean Association in emphasizing the importance of infrastructure investments.

Stepped-up basis

The Senate’s infrastructure legislation did not make changes to stepped-up basis or 1031 exchange provisions. If changed, this would have a detrimental impact on Iowa farmers, ISA District 3 Director Suzanne Shirbroun told her elected representatives in Washington, D.C. Shirbroun is the sixth generation on her family’s farm near Farmersburg.

“The seventh generation just graduated from college and is starting to move back to the farm. If we see changes to stepped-up basis, generation seven is not going to be there. We can’t afford it,” she said.

Budget for biobased products

The legislation also includes a pilot program initiated by Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) that will research the benefits of biobased products for use in construction and other projects.  The American Soybean Association, the South Dakota Soybean Association, and others assisted with the legislative language. The Soy Transportation Coalition and other organizations are promoting the use of soy-based, environmentally sustainable concrete and asphalt sealants to elongate the life of roads and bridges.

“These products also provide an additional marketing opportunity for U.S. soybean farmers,” Steenhoek notes. “We are pleased to see this language included in the legislation.”

The U.S. House will return early from recess and reconvene Aug. 23 to consider the budget resolution and other legislation. Once the resolution has passed both chambers, House and Senate Democrats can proceed with the reconciliation process, which allows the majority party to ultimately pass a final bill with just a 51-vote majority in the Senate.