USDA, DOE sign major MOU to promote rural energy, advance rural communities, domestic manufacturing.

October 24, 2019 |

In Washington, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Donald “DJ” LaVoy and U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes today announced a Memorandum of Understanding between the two departments to promote rural energy and the development of technologies that will support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing.

The deal

The signed MOU, which was required under section 6501 of the 2018 Farm Bill, will enhance collaboration and coordination between the Department of Energy (DOE) and USDA. The areas covered by the MOU include facilitating energy-related investments in America’s rural communities; streamlining, leveraging and optimizing program resources; encouraging innovation; offering technical assistance to rural communities; strengthening energy-related infrastructure; ensuring affordable and reliable power; and helping rural businesses export energy products and manufactured goods around the world.

The background

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. The task force recognized that boosting all sources of energy including renewable sources is essential to achieving energy independence, strengthening America’s national security, and bolstering rural America’s economy.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Energy creates jobs, supports local infrastructure expansion and provides new opportunities to increase economic development in rural communities,” LaVoy said. “The bright and innovative minds in rural communities working to develop and utilize new energy technology should know that the Trump Administration supports their mission and efforts to increase prosperity in Rural America. I’m grateful that USDA is partnering with DOE to help farmers, ranchers, foresters and businesses in rural communities thrive.”

Menezes added, “This MOU will do an immeasurable amount of good for our rural communities. Rural America deserves the investments in energy infrastructure, technology, and businesses that will be produced by this MOU. By working together, DOE and USDA will follow through on President Trump’s promise to emphasize and focus on the needs of these hardworking communities across America in an unprecedented way.

USDA and DOE have convened interagency working groups. The working groups will focus on five major areas:

(1) Develop and expand energy- and manufacturing-related businesses, industries and technologies in rural America;

(2) Encourage investments in new or improved rural energy infrastructure;

(3) Enhance capital access for energy-related businesses and industries in rural America;

(4) Support rural community investments that anticipate growth associated with rural energy investment and development; and

(5) Encourage, support and invest in cyber security initiatives and grid improvement.

The working groups will be co-chaired by representatives of USDA and DOE. They will meet at least quarterly and prepare a report to each Secretary within a year of the first meeting and each year thereafter on actions and projects on which the departments will collaborate.

The Report from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity: the key recommendations

e-Connectivity for Rural America:

In today’s information-driven global economy, e-connectivity is not simply an amenity – it has become essential. E-connectivity, or electronic connectivity, is more than just connecting households, schools, and healthcare centers to each other as well as the rest of the world through high-speed internet. It is also a tool that enables increased productivity for farms, factories, forests, mining, and small businesses. E-connectivity is fundamental for economic development, innovation, advancements in technology, workforce readiness, and an improved quality of life. Reliable and affordable high-speed internet connectivity will transform rural America as a key catalyst for prosperity.

Objectives & Recommended Actions

1. Establish Executive Leadership to Expand E-connectivity Across Rural America – The Task Force recommends that the Executive Office of the President develop and implement a strategy based on best practices to deploy rural e-connectivity across the nation. The recommended participating offices and agencies include the National Economic Council, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of American Innovation, Department of Agriculture, National Telecommunications 
and Information Administration under the Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Education, the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and other Departments and agencies needed.

2. Assess State of Rural E-connectivity – Coordination by the Executive Office of the President of a multi-sector assessment of the current state of affordable rural high-speed internet access, including identification of infrastructure and service gaps. Such a data-driven analysis of service levels, reliability, and affordability should inform the creation of the rural e-connectivity strategy. An analysis of total capital investment necessary for rural e-connectivity should be conducted, including existing federal and non-federal subsidies.

3. Reduce Regulatory Barriers to Infrastructure Deployment – Revise federal regulations to encourage investment in reliable, high-speed internet in rural areas, expedite approval and internal review timelines and streamline permitting processes to promote increased build-out of infrastructure. The federal government should coordinate any regulatory
reform efforts with those being pursued by the Administration’s efforts to reduce regulatory burdens under EO 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.”

4. Assess Efficacy of Current Programs – Simultaneous with the above actions, the Task Force recommends an assessment of existing federal grants and subsidy programs devoted to or used for deploying e-connectivity. The assessment should include identification of duplicative and overlapping programs throughout the federal government, and recommendations to enhance the coordination of various funding streams to maximize impact.

5. Incentivize Private Capital Investment – Encourage free-market policies, laws, and structures at federal, state, tribal, and local government levels to create an environment conducive to investment, including public-private partnerships. Such partnerships can bring innovation and investment of sustainable capital to bridge the e-connectivity gap in the fastest and most affordable manner.

Improving Quality of Life:

Ensuring rural Americans can achieve a high quality of life is the foundation of prosperity. Quality of life is a measure of human well-being that can be identified though economic and social indicators. Modern utilities, affordable housing, efficient transportation and reliable employment are economic indicators that must be integrated with social indicators like access to medical services, public safety, education and community resilience to empower rural communities to thrive. Focusing and delivering key federal reforms will enable rural Americans to flourish and prosper in 21st Century communities.

Objectives & Recommended Actions

1. Advance Educational Opportunities – Create a strategy for public-private partnerships to complete the connection of all rural Pre-K through Grade 12 and Community/Technical Colleges to high-speed, high-capacity internet to maximize the use of digital learning, especially the deployment of curricula for STEM subjects most relevant to rural economies such as agriculture, manufacturing, military, and business. These opportunities should include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, and Department of Education, and other pertinent agencies aligning on implementation along with key stakeholders. A primary activity should be conducting outreach and designing the optimal set of roles for various government agencies and private sector organizations.

2. Modernize Healthcare Access – Assure that the policies and roles of the federal government support access to medical treatment facilities, including health clinics, telemedicine, vocational and medical rehabilitation facilities, dental clinics, assisted living, nursing homes and memory care facilities. Better coordination of the sources of capital that support high-need providers in rural areas is needed, including current federal funds and potential new private funds. Implementation of best practices can be identified and facilitated to enhance access to primary care and specialty providers through telemedicine. Improved access to mental and behavioral care, particularly access to prevention, treatment, and recovery resources is vital to address the nationwide opioid crisis and other substance misuse in rural communities. The Task Force recommends a multi-agency approach to align federal policies and programs for rural healthcare modernization within the Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing & Urban Development, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture and other related agencies. The objective would be to prioritize actions and streamline current funds and financing tools of federal, state, tribal and local governments, as well as private sector organizations. Within existing resources, a more efficient deployment of current taxpayer resources can more effectively address the rural healthcare needs.

3. Innovate Options for Rural Housing – Develop a set of shared best practices for increasing homeownership, reducing homelessness in rural communities, and building robust community infrastructure. Such practices should include recommendations for federal, state, tribal and local action to strengthen investments in rural housing and provide technical assistance. The Task Force recommends options such as the Department of Housing & Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, and Department of Education jointly evaluating federal rural housing policies and programs, and targeting existing resources to best support sustainable housing in rural communities. To optimize rural housing options for the workforce needed in the current and future economies, private sector organizations’ resource deployment to rural areas can also be incentivized.

4. Improve Transportation Options – Targeted investment within current programs that are outcomes- driven can further address the disproportionately high fatality rate on rural roads, including multi- agency collaboration on policies. States and local transit systems can save tax dollars and more effectively serve rural citizens’ mobility needs to job sites, education centers, and healthcare facilities, by streamlining federal policies, programs, and funds that support rural public transit systems. Interagency coordination could include the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Labor, and other relevant agencies better aligning policies for rural transit services based on locally-created rural community economic development strategies.

5. Modernize Rural Utilities – Advance and expedite the important infrastructure modernization and technology investments that can be prioritized for rural communities’ electric power and water systems. Existing resources can be utilized to further invest in rural communities’ water infrastructure. For smart grid deployment, enhancements to federal financing programs at the Department of Agriculture can be executed in further conjunction with the Department of Energy. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Agriculture can further coordinate programs on the installation of high-speed e-connectivity in rural communities.

6. Improve Community Resiliency Planning – Align federal economic development policy and resources in a manner that enhances rural prosperity. The Task Force recommends that a strategy
is built out that includes best practices in site selection, workforce development, utility and transportation infrastructure, and use permitting. It could also encourage community resilience
at the local level by requiring that federal planning strategies, such as the Economic Development Administration’s Community Economic Development Strategies (CEDS), include identification of strategic industries for rural regions and plans for disaster preparedness and recovery. For example, coordination between the various agencies and programs of the Department of Agriculture can enhance the effectiveness of all federal agencies’ efforts to support economic growth and resiliency in rural America, including CEDS, which can be used to drive federal investment in rural areas per these locally-created prosperity plans.

Supporting a Rural Workforce

To grow and prosper, every rural community needs job opportunities for its residents, and employers need qualified individuals to fill those needs. This requires identifying employment needs, attracting available workers from urban and rural centers alike, and providing the workforce with training and education to best fill the available needs. There are many opportunities to partner with local businesses and organizations to identify gaps, to work with all levels of educational institutions to provide career training and development, to fine- tune existing training programs, and to grow apprenticeship opportunities to develop the required workforce. Providing rural communities, organizations, and businesses a skilled workforce with an environment where people can thrive will grow prosperous communities.

Objectives & Recommended Actions

1. Connect Rural Skillsets to Jobs of the Future – Before we can provide suitable resources, we must identify existing job demands, skillset gaps, and community needs. A robust interagency effort is needed to study current gaps and job demands in all sectors to better specialize our educational and training efforts. We recommend that interested agencies complete a study which clearly identifies these gaps. That survey will then be used to promote curricula rationalization methods in K-12 education, secondary educational institutions, and technical training programs. This effort will better link educational and career guidance given at an early age to local economic needs. We must also focus on developing universally adaptable skills that provide flexibility in a rapidly changing environment. This research is the integral first step to best serve rural communities and ensure we are training for jobs that are needed, but also provide an adaptable workforce as new skillset are needed.
2. Promote and Expand Apprenticeship Programs – The Task Force identified clear needs in the healthcare and trade industry sectors while rural businesses and communities struggle to find talent to fill jobs in these sectors. The Task Force recommends that federal agencies promote and assist local businesses in the expansion of apprenticeship programs. In the near term, we support creating an interagency workgroup to identify priorities and develop apprenticeship programs for rural America.

3. Connect Veterans to Underutilized Training Programs – Despite a clear effort to reach these available and talented individuals that are ready and willing to work, programs are not easily accessible and often siloed within the federal agencies; therefore, not maximizing the potential talent lying within this population. The federal government must do better to connect, streamline, and eliminate duplication across the agencies to better reach and serve veterans. We recommend an interagency inventory of available veterans’ programs, a focused effort to eliminate duplication by creating a one stop shop for better customer service, and implementing metrics to measure veterans’ access and use of training programs.

4. Improve Rural Access to Education and Training – Job opportunities, training programs and educational materials are not easily accessible by businesses and jobseekers. As we work to eliminate interagency silos, there are ways to better market the resources already available to rural populations using existing resources.

a. Improve Interagency Collaboration – The Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture should strengthen the collaboration between the two departments, their stakeholders and partners to improve access to quality education in rural communities and create opportunity for children in rural America. The interagency coordination will (1) increase investment within existing resources for a wide range of daycare, primary, elementary, and secondary education facilities, including traditional public and charter schools, (2) improve the access of rural communities to resources provided by both Departments, (3) make capital available through USDA for strengthening existing or constructing new educational facilities, and (4) provide capacity building and technical assistance. 
b. Catalog Federal Training Programs – Federal government training programs should be catalogued on a single online platform to improve access to these materials and programs. 
c. Encourage Interagency Use of Federal Infrastructure – The Department of Agriculture has a broad physical network with local and regional offices across America. We encourage all federal agencies to partner with the Department of Agriculture to house certain educational materials or host periodic training programs in those local offices.

5. Ensure Access to Lawful, Agricultural Workforce – Production agriculture is often a key economic driver in rural communities. Many on-farm jobs are seasonal and very physically demanding. Farmers often have difficulty finding American citizen and lawful permanent resident workers to fill these jobs. This can lead some farmers to scramble to find workers to plant, prune, and harvest fruits and vegetables or to tend to livestock. As labor instability grows, seasonal farmers are increasingly turning to H-2A visa program to ensure that their foreign-born workers are working legally in the United States. The inefficiencies and administrative burden of the H-2A program are well-communicated by farmers. The White House is addressing farmers’ concerns through an interagency effort to implement policy and regulatory changes to improve the program H-2A program. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that farmers have access to the lawful workforce that is needed.

Harnessing Technological Innovation

By 2050, the U.S. population is projected to increase to almost 400 million people, and rising incomes worldwide will translate into a historic global growth in food demand. To feed a hungry world, we will need to harness innovation to increase output across American farmlands. In addition to increased crop yields, technological innovation can improve crop quality, nutritional value, and food safety. Innovations in manufacturing, mining, and other non-agricultural industries can enhance worker efficiency and safety. At the core of these developments that will further grow the rural economy is the expansion of STEM education, research, regulatory modernization, and infrastructure. Leveraging these innovations in an increasingly data- driven economy will also require further development of rural data management capabilities.

Objectives & Recommended Actions

1. Coordinate Federal Farm Production and Food Safety R&D – To sustainably feed the world, ensure a safe food supply, and keep families on the farm, modern science and technology must be applied. The U.S. needs research and development, as well as a regulatory system that promotes rather than discourages innovation and discovery. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) should extend the charter of the Subcommittee on Food and Agriculture to coordinate strategies across the federal government to advance innovation in food and agriculture R&D. The Task Force recommends that the subcommittee catalog, coordinate, and leverage ongoing investments in technology to drive innovation in rural America and deliver safe, transformative technologies to farmers and consumers. The subcommittee should also develop an R&D strategy that identifies and creates opportunities for the technology sector to invest in rural communities.

2. Improve Rural Management of Big Data – The U.S. government needs a plan and a stronger vision for how big data can be better leveraged to revolutionize the agricultural sector. The NSTC Subcommittee on Food and Agriculture should develop best practices for big data management in agricultural applications.

3. Increase Public Acceptance of Biotech Products – The Department of State, the Department of Agriculture, and other relevant agencies should develop a communications strategy to increase acceptance of biotech products and open and maintain markets for U.S. farmers abroad. To complement this strategy, the U.S. Trade Representative should initiate interagency deliberations to identify an international strategy that removes unjustified trade barriers and expands markets for American products.

4. Develop a Streamlined, Science-based Regulatory Policy for Biotechnology – The federal government should continue efforts to modernize the federal regulatory system for biotechnology products. These efforts will improve transparency, coordination, and predictability of the system and support public confidence by assessing products in a risk-based manner, providing predictable pathways for commercialization. These efforts should be continued to ensure the success of consumers, farmers, and their products. More efficient and effective communication must be employed to build evidence-based confidence in the safety of products for health and the environment. It is critical that these improvements: (1) maintain high standards that are based on the best available science and that deliver appropriate health and environmental protection; (2) establish transparent, coordinated, predictable, and efficient regulatory practices across agencies with overlapping jurisdiction; and (3) promote public confidence in the oversight of the products of biotechnology through clear and transparent public and diplomatic engagement.

The Task Force recommends that the Administration:

a. Coordinate Federal Regulation of Biotechnology Products – Reaffirm strong support of the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, and the corresponding National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory Systems for Biotechnology Products.

b. Coordinate Interagency Action Through the Office of Science and Technology Policy – Endorse and empower the Biotechnology Working Group, led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, to continue cooperation across relevant government agencies and improve science-based regulatory approaches directed in 2015 by the White House memorandum to federal agencies, including: updating science-based regulations navigable by small and mid-sized innovators and promoting understanding of how a risk- and science based regulatory approach effectively protects consumers.

c. Expedite Commercialization of Biotechnology Products – Create a forum led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that connects regulators with the funding and R&D agencies to increase awareness and speed the safe commercialization of novel biotechnology products.

5. Enable Rural Uses of Unmanned Technologies – Federal regulations currently restrict many agricultural uses of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The FAA should expedite regulatory waiver approvals for low-altitude UAS operations in rural environments. State and local governments should be enabled to propose increased UAS operations in their jurisdictions to be considered by the FAA for streamlined regulatory waiver approvals. These could include rural communities seeking reduced restrictions on UAS operations for precision agriculture applications and improved production monitoring capacity.

Economic Development

Infusing rural areas with stronger businesses and agricultural economies empowers America. Expanding funding options to increase the productivity of farmers and ranchers will lead to the enhanced viability and competitiveness of rural America. By promoting innovative farm technologies, energy security, recreation, agritourism and sustainable forest management, communities will be empowered to leverage the bounties of rural America. Investing in rural transportation infrastructure is needed for carrying more “Made in America” products to markets at home and abroad, and boosting our country’s global competitiveness. Reducing regulatory burdens and attracting private capital will support our ultimate mission of empowering Rural America to feed the world.

Objectives & Recommended Actions

1. Access to Capital – Rural business men and women, entrepreneurs, as well as beginning farmers and ranchers, often have difficulty accessing capital to help them start, grow, and expand their businesses. They are often either too large or too small to qualify for, or gain access to, available loans and lending programs. In addition, Wall Street and Silicon Valley have struggled to access rural markets which are therefore not primed to take their cash. Agricultural lenders tend to operate far differently than venture capital firms and global private investors. With the number of small and community banks declining, we need to help communities identify and develop projects appropriate for private investment. The Task Force recommends that future strategies include:

a. Equity Financing – Allowing new obligations in federal and state loan and credit programs to be used to meet equity requirements, or a first-loss-position, could help rural communities bring additional financing to the table.

b. Debt Financing – With renewed focus and goals for agricultural and non-agricultural lending in rural counties by both the Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration (SBA), SBA is able to provide loans up to $5.5 million.

c. Bundle/Repackage Projects and Deals – A legal/finance vehicle to bundle projects can bring the necessary scale to attract private sector interest and take advantage of economies of scale to deliver cost savings.

d. Regional and State Collaboration – Projects can draw upon larger revenue streams when approached regionally. There are more financing options and deeper expertise when state wide and regional entities are involved.

2. Leverage Existing Market Opportunities – Larger and more strategic public-private sector opportunities should be sought for rural America. Locally-transformative actions create jobs and lift up local economies. Many of these opportunities languish in regulatory uncertainty, or struggle with volatile economic risk profiles. Among the expertise within the federal family, lies the opportunity to make a big difference in the lives of rural families, farmers and ranchers. We should engage the private financial sector and work to identify opportunities already in their pipeline. The federal government could provide guidance to find ways to help capital markets expedite deal execution that quickly benefit rural economies.

3. Create a Rural Prosperity Investment Portal – A web based portal enabling rural based investment partnerships – public or private – will serve as a matchmaking tool for project promoters to reach domestic and international investors. The portal can mobilize investments, promote economic growth and create more jobs across rural America. In partnership with the Opportunity Project, the proposed Commission on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity should coordinate with the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture to engage the tech sector through the creation of digital tools that expand rural prosperity, such as an investment portal.

The Opportunity Project involves collaboration across government agencies, local governments, tech companies, community organizations, and more, to create new digital solutions that help families, businesses, local officials, and other members of the public access economic opportunity. To date, over 45 digital tools have been created by tech companies through the Opportunity Project.

4. Build a Better Tax Code – Rural Americans who work hard every day to provide food, fiber, fuel, manufactured goods, and services for their fellow citizens shouldn’t be overburdened by the tax collector. Reforms to federal tax policy are long overdue. Most family farms and rural entrepreneurs operate as small businesses, where the line between success and failure is razor thin. Add to that the complexity and costs of merely complying with the tax code, and their budgets are stretched even tighter. The federal government should build a better tax code to encourage investment, create jobs and help Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.

5. Increase Agricultural, Forestry and Food Production – With world food demand expected to double in 40 years, leadership is necessary to meet this economic opportunity and humanitarian imperative. Keeping future generations on the farm is one of the best ways to ensure that the demand for food, fiber, and energy production is met. Family-run operations provide economic and social continuity 
to their communities across generations, so federal policies should encourage their transfer to family members willing to remain on the farm. For example, key community stakeholders, including grocery stores, distributors, value-chain actors, universities, and more, will soon be able to engage and franchise a community economic development model as well as share success stories. In addition, local, regional, and state leaders will be convened to engage in a discussion on effective methods of economic development and coordination with federal investment as well as to discuss how federal, regional, state and local incentives and regulations can support and/or hinder agriculture in their area. This coordination will result in“Agricultural Community Economic Development” model tool kits being developed and deployed for the Department of Agriculture, rural partners, and farmers.

6. Remove Regulatory Barriers to Developing and Accessing Natural Resources – Rural communities are often rich in natural and renewable natural resources, energy sources, and minerals. These communities should be able to responsibly and sustainably access, use, and profit from those local assets without undue federal restrictions and intervention. The Task Force recommends that the following actions be initiated within the federal government: improve interagency coordination to reduce process burden through environmental analysis and decision-making efficiencies; streamline consultation processes using standard decision-making templates and implementing regulatory changes; integrate digital service systems to improve customer service, and reduce delivery of services; develop and test the issuance of permits electronically (e-Permitting); and, develop and implement a modernized ‘special use’ permitting system, including a web-based ePermit system that offers convenience and a high-quality user experience to the public. Components of this system are already taking shape between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior.

7. Regain American Energy Dominance – Rural America is a source of resources that can fuel the nation and the world. Boosting production of all sources of energy from natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, and renewables is essential to America’s national security interest and rural America’s economy. The federal government must ensure a regulatory environment which can unleash this potential while keeping Americans safe and healthy. This increase in production of domestic fuels will bring jobs back to rural America and promote energy security.
We must also continue research and development for new sources of energy to ensure that America leads the world in innovative energy sources. Overall, this boost in energy production will benefit rural communities, boost U.S. tax revenues, and increase our power in the global energy market.

8. Rebuild and Modernize Rural America’s Infrastructure – The economic success of future generations and rural communities depends on rehabilitating transportation infrastructure, closing the infrastructure gaps within rural communities, and enhancing connection to metropolitan areas.

a. Increase “Made in America” Outputs – Increasing “Made in America” output in agriculture, manufacturing, forestry, and mining requires investment in capacity and modernization of rural infrastructure to connect rural production facilities and businesses to nationwide and global commerce. Increased output will result in unleashing the full potential of the U.S. economy and the creation of rural job opportunities, ensuring that rural areas are attractive and prosperous places to live for generations to come.

b. Address Commercial Infrastructure Gaps – The key infrastructure gaps that need to be addressed are those that carry commerce for rural America, especially in the first and last mile. Transportation infrastructure of all modes – roads, bridges, railways, and waterways – must be upgraded and expanded with the capacity needed to accommodate the additional crops and products that are made in America’s rural economies, including food, fiber, forests, and factory- made commodities and specialty-goods.

c. Develop the “Digital Superhighway” – The “digital superhighway” for connectivity must
be built out to support rural economies’ connection to all applications of global commerce, including support of data transfer needed for the Internet of Things and future deployment
of autonomous vehicles. In the short term, better collaboration among the Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Energy, and others will enable the strategic rehabilitation and build-out of the infrastructure needed to carry freight to, within, and from rural production sites in today’s and tomorrow’s economy.

d. Expand State and Local Transportation Capacity – Empowerment of state and local governments to expand and maintain infrastructure will ensure rural transportation capacity supports local and regional demands for freight flow.

9. Cutting Red Tape – To ensure the quickest and most effective deployment of new investments in infrastructure, federal environmental permitting must be simpler and speedier. Regulatory reforms, streamlining processes, and improving interagency coordination must occur to create conditions in which the rural economy can thrive from the farm gate and small business up through the value-added chain. Our federal actions must also be as customer-centric as possible and we must ensure that our regulations and policies are up-to-date, necessary, and effectively achieving their purposes, while simultaneously being as affordable and consistent as possible. If inconsistencies or interferences with reform initiatives, or actions that eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation are identified, we must take steps to lessen or remove their negative impacts. One such action that can be taken in the short term is to fully implement One Federal Decision (OFD) and FAST-41 policies and recommendations within environmental authorization actions. All federal agencies should actively participate in all FAST-41 and OFD working groups to ensure that any lessons learned are applied to improve environmental authorization processes.

10. Increase Access to Global Market – Based on fair trade principles, international market access must be aggressively pursued and supported. Physical infrastructure and e-connectivity must be improved and maintained to connect farms and rural communities to the world. American agriculture needs and deserves policies that support and build on this success – by opening markets abroad; by ensuring fair and science-based regulatory treatment for American products of all kinds; and by implementing strong enforcement policies that hold trading partners to their commitments. In the next three years, our administration will take on challenges ranging from high tariffs on dozens of products – including meats, dairy, rice, soy, wheat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and more – to unscientific regulation of biotechnology products and other goods; inappropriate use of geographical indications in ways that shut out American producers of wines, cheeses, and other high-value products; and escalating levels of domestic supports in large emerging economies. We will address these through fair negotiations, use of World Trade Organization and Free Trade Agreement dispute settlement rights, and all other means at our disposal.

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