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Farmers, ranchers ask for federal support in infrastructure improvements

Posted at 6:10 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 19:10:15-05

LAMPASAS, Texas — The Texas Farm Bureau is hopeful lawmakers will get to work on legislation that would authorize spending on infrastructure improvements. This includes ensuring rural roads and bridges are able to handle equipment, broadband and maintaining competitive advantage in exports.

“Right now the priority for ranchers is to maintain those businesses and improve those businesses with those infrastructure needs. There’s modern farm equipment that needs to be traveling on roads and bridges. They need to be able to handle that. Infrastructure needs to be improved,” said Gary Joiner, Texas Farm Bureau.

Mickey Edwards, a rancher from Lampasas County, says road improvements are critical.

“We know that highways are the way we get our product to market. When you’re taking cattle to market, you need a road that’s good enough, wide enough to get through there,” said Edwards.

There are also safety concerns.

“The infrastructures through Lampasas County or any road around Central Texas when you get off the main thoroughfare, the main interstates you get into situations where roads are narrow, bridges are narrow. If you are moving equipment up and down those highways, it can be very unsafe. You have a 20 foot plow on a 20 foot road, you are blocking one of the lanes,” said Edwards.

He says every rural county has unmet needs when it comes to road conditions.

“What we’ve noticed in our county is I-281, for example, as it comes from north Texas to south Texas, it goes through Lampasas. People are looking for an alternative on that route to 35, which is under construction, so we have 4 times as much traffic as we did three years ago,” said Edwards.

But it’s not just the physical road infrastructure, but also the information superhighway.

“Right now the big push is at the USDA. There are some dollars available to improve rural broadband access,” said Joiner.

According to the most recent census of agriculture, only 72% of farms have Internet access in McLennan County. In Bell County, only 75% of farms have Internet. There is just 77% in Brazos County.

“In our area, rural Texas, we don’t have any high speed internet. Some of the cities do, but when we are trying to pay for a satellite to get our internet, it’s not very fast, it’s not always dependable and it is very expensive,” said Edwards.

Congress is also looking at legislation for better mapping to find gaps in Internet access. Supporters hope they can work with Internet service providers to see where funding can best be used.