Rural America’s infrastructure challenges cut to the heart of the six challenges outlined during this morning’s session of the Farm Foundation’s Food and Agriculture Policy Summit being held in Washington, D.C.
As you might have read on my earlier post over on AgWired.com, this morning, Farm Foundation Pres. Neil Conklin outlined the six major areas of challenges facing agriculture over the next 30 years: 1. Global financial markets and recession, 2. Global food security, 3. Global energy security, 4. Climate change, 5. Competition for natural resources, and 6. Global economic development. Gene Griffin with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University told the group attending today’s Farm Foundation session that a crumbling rural infrastructure, in particular, the roads, touches each one of these six challenges and threatens to make them even worse.
“The engineers will tell you [the pavements] look OK on the surface, but underneath it is starting to crumble.” Griffin says by the time the damage is clearly noticeable, it costs two to three times as opposed to normal maintenance and repair.
“Just getting the political will of people to pay for systems they want to use… but they’ve gotten used to the idea they don’t necessarily have to pay for it. And I think those are two huge problems.”
Griffin says in his home state, where rural roads are seeing a huge amount of big trucks working the biodiesel and ethanol industries and North Dakota’s burgeoning petroleum industry is also taking a toll, that infrastructure needs the funding… although it might not see the same amount of traffic a higher-density population area would see. He says if the cities want the fuels that are produced in rural areas, we need to develop a system that links the high-density traffic areas with the low-density ones.
He says it comes down to deciding if we’re going to pay for the infrastructure that will help us be more energy independent now at a lower price or at a much higher price… down the road.
Listen to my entire conversation with Gene here:
Download the audio here.