This week’s Open Mic guest is Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully exposed the “Rural Divide” between those who enjoy adequate internet service and those who suffer from a lack of connectivity. In recent testimony before Congress, Bloomfield advocated for developing a national infrastructure to meet the needs of the day and capturing opportunities of tomorrow. Bloomfield says it is important for government agencies to coordinate efforts in developing and maintaining rural service and says the time is now to take action to provide this essential service to all Americans.
This week’s Open Mic Guest is Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. Few events in history have been as challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic. Agriculture makes up one-fourth of Arkansas’ GDP and has hit the state’s rural economy especially hard. As a member of both the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees in the Senate, Boozman approves of additional funds to support the industry but is keeping an eye on the additional financial burden. He supports the Agriculture Department and Secretary Sonny Perdue’s guidelines for dispersing CFAP funds, is in favor of increased annual limits for the Commodity Credit Corporation, and believes the silver lining of the pandemic may be heightened efforts to improve rural broadband service.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. Even before the bulk of the CARES Act funding is distributed to farmers and the ag industry, the House of Representatives, on a party-line vote, approved another $3-trillion in economic stimulus funds. Hoeven believes his chamber will consider additional stimulus legislation, but not until the results of the Phase 3 plan are realized. Hoeven says liability protection is a top priority for the GOP, and he’s willing to consider raising the annual borrowing limit for the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. Hoeven also discusses investigations into cattle prices and foreign ownership of meat processing companies.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Polly Ruhland, CEO of the United Soybean Board. Soybean farmers have been hit hard by lost global market share and increased competition from crops in the Southern Hemisphere. Now, the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing the outlook for many farmers further into red ink for 2020. Ruhland says the soybean checkoff is on task and identifying areas of economic growth for nearly every aspect of the soybean industry; asphalt, motor oil and even shoe soles show tremendous growth potential for the “magic bean.”
This week’s Open Mic Guest is Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations. In this interview, Aderholt discusses the timing of the next round of legislation to support agriculture and the economy during the COVID-19 crisis and potential impacts on the next farm bill. Aderholt says the nation’s debt is an issue when considering an infrastructure bill but believes expanded broadband service to rural areas can no longer be ignored.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. The Illinois Democrat stands in full support of legislation intended to prop up the U.S. economy and assist farmers suffering losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Durbin, who once worked at a packing plant, shares thoughts on the need to protect human health in those workplaces and concerns about the ethanol industry. Durbin hints that the USDA may provide additional assistance for farms and ranches in the near future.