Agri-PulseEarlier this month, AEM Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Relations Kip Eideberg joined U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) for a discussion on the top legislative issues facing rural America in the 117th Congress.  

The conversation took place at a pivotal time for our rural communities. Nearly a year into the pandemic, many of these communities are still struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses, farmers, and students. Throughout the pandemic, equipment manufacturers have remained essential, keeping critical people and goods moving to those areas most affected. 

The hour-long discussion, moderated by Agri-Pulse Managing Editor Spencer Chase, touched on a wide-range of topics, from the ongoing COVID-19 recovery and workforce development, to trade and global supply chains. 

Eideberg on building the next generation of skilled workers: 

We’ve got to create more work opportunities for our young people. We believe that equipment manufacturing – manufacturing overall – is a pathway to the middle class. That is how we lift people up and put them to work. By investing in our infrastructure, we’re putting people to work. Not just the people who build the roads and bridges, but it’s also the people that build the equipment and the people that produce all the aggregates and everything else that goes into infrastructure construction. 

“But I think it starts with educating our young people about the opportunities that exist in industries that don’t require a four-year degree. It’s about getting rid of that stigma. You can have a great career in manufacturing; it’s a family-sustaining job, you can raise a family, you can put your kids through college or through technical school… So, I think you could marry up an infrastructure investment with a solution to our workforce problem, create more jobs, create more opportunities, and strengthen rural America.” 

Eideberg on sustainability and rural broadband: 

“Today’s modern farm equipment and its technology yield benefits through the increased efficiency. Look at fertilizer reduction or pesticide reduction; because you have more precise placement, you have more accurate application. All of this makes farmers more effective; it allows them to care for their land – because they want to pass it on down to the next generation. Let’s be clear: they are at the forefront of conservation. This technology helps them accomplish that.  

“But none of that is possible if we don’t have reliable high-speed broadband out in rural America. And so to realize the environmental benefits of precision ag and to help advance some of the ideas that the congresswoman mentioned, we’ve got to invest in our broadband.” 

Eideberg on free and fair trade policy: 

“We certainly hope that the Biden Administration would take a long, hard look at some of the tariffs that are currently in place, particularly when it comes to some of the key inputs coming from the European Union. Those tariffs don’t really help us, it drives up the cost of our products. And when it comes to China, we were pretty vocal in our support for the previous administration’s efforts to hold the Chinese to their bargain. There’s been some problems there with that trading relationship. It’s not been right-sized, we’ve struggled with issues of intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, among other things. So we’ve got to fix that. We all agree that we’ve got to trade with the Chinese; it’s a global economy. But they need to be honest brokers, too.” 

These answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Click here to watch a recording of “Top Rural Issues in the New Congress.”

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