Guest Column: How bipartisan infrastructure bill will benefit Minnesota’s rural communities

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

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Guest Column by Amy Klobuchar

In my travels across our state I often hear from people about the need to improve our infrastructure in rural areas. Minnesotans see problems with our infrastructure every day as they drive over one too many potholes in the winter, face significant delays to access materials and equipment for their businesses, or are unable to connect to high-speed internet.

Amy Klobuchar

But this month, with the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we addressed these urgent needs by investing in our nation’s infrastructure. With 19 of my Republican Senate colleagues — including our neighbors Sens. Hoeven and Cramer of North Dakota — we finally came together across party lines to pass a bill to fix our crumbling infrastructure and expand broadband access to every corner of Minnesota. 

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For Minnesota’s farmers, this bill will help get crops to market and eliminate barriers to transporting key products, like fertilizer and seed. We’ve all heard about crowded ports and rail cars backed up for miles — how can we expect agricultural producers to do the critical work of feeding America without reliable transit?

I’ve spoken with countless small business owners who agree, which is why I fought to set resources aside for projects like revamping our inland waterways, improving our highways and updating our nation’s rail network. These provisions take crucial steps to ensure deliveries and exports come and go on time.

This is all important, but competing in the 21st century isn’t just about roads, bridges and ports — it’s also about making sure all Americans can access the internet, no matter their zip code. As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, I fought to strengthen our broadband infrastructure to make it possible for families across the country to study, work and connect with loved ones online.

This is especially significant in rural Minnesota, where an estimated 16 percent of households lack broadband at baseline speeds. Because of this federal funding, the high school student in Otter Tail County will no longer need to drive 40 minutes from home to a liquor store parking lot to find adequate Wi-fi to take her online biology quizzes. It will also enable doctors in rural areas to provide telehealth services to patients who don’t otherwise have access to quality, affordable care.

As more of our farmers and ranchers get reliable broadband, they will be able to take advantage of precision technology that can monitor field conditions like soil health and crop growth and log weather. Increased access to high-speed internet will also make it possible for tractors with wireless connections to send real-time data back to farms, helping farmers control pests and manage runoff. This not only supports our local farms but also protects our nation’s food supply.

With kids back in school and resources to help Minnesotans heading to communities across the state, there is much to be thankful for this holiday season. As we reflect on this great progress and head into the new year, I will continue to work on behalf of Minnesotans to ensure these improvements are made in a timely manner so we can continue moving our state forward.

Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, is a U.S. senator.