I agree with the sentiment of Mr. Joe Sheffey, former chairman of the Pulaksi County Board of Supervisors, in part of his remarks on Martin Luther King given to branches of the NAACP in Christiansburg Sunday, January 14, to paraphrase:
America still has this dream.
Our country is a big one, and as it grew, we also looked for ways to make it closer together. Even as we expanded from sea to sea, we sought ways to move people, ideas, and goods faster and to more areas. Think of the Transcontinental Railroad linking East and West in the nineteenth century or the Panama Canal uniting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the twentieth.
We still face this challenge today. As the world becomes more wired, it threatens to leave rural America behind. Internet connectivity should be an infrastructure priority in the 21st century. Currently, that means rural broadband.
Society increasingly depends on its connection to the Internet, from education to entertainment, from business to healthcare. Yet many Americans such as people living in rural areas of the Ninth District can only surf the web at painfully slow speeds, if they are able to do so at all.
Fast and reliable Internet access can increase the economic potential of rural areas. But efforts are underway that may address this problem.
Last April, President Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to examine how the Federal Government could best serve rural America. The task force recently issued a report with its list of recommendations, and “achieving e-connectivity for rural America” is at the top of the list. The President recognized the importance of broadband to rural areas in his speech to the American Farm Bureau in Nashville on January 8, and also signed two executive orders that day encouraging its deployment.
I welcome these moves by the Administration. Last year I sent a letter along with 70 House colleagues from both parties to the White House encouraging it to consider rural broadband an infrastructure priority. The President’s actions in recent days show he took that message to heart.
Although the executive branch’s actions are helpful, Congress must act as well. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, has jurisdiction over telecommunications. Its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology recently proposed a series of resolutions establishing principles for broadband infrastructure. They include directing funding to areas that are not served by broadband at present, treating broadband providers in a technology-neutral manner, applying consistent rules that support innovation, easing the permitting process, and coordinating government requirements to maximize the benefits of broadband investment.
These principles are a step in the right direction, promoting fairness, investment, and innovation in broadband expansion. Most importantly, they set the table for future legislation to build out broadband for rural areas.
I am encouraged by these recent developments and will continue to advocate for solutions that connect rural America to the rest of our country and the world beyond.
Tax Reform and Agriculture
The tax reform recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump is intended to benefit Americans across this country, and that includes farmers and others employed in the agricultural sector. Important provisions for them include:
- Full expensing for five years of farm equipment, livestock, and plants bearing fruits and nuts
- Accelerated cost recovery for farm machinery and equipment by shortening its depreciable life from seven years to five years
- 20 percent deduction for pass-through business income, meant to help small business owners who file their taxes as individuals. Agricultural and horticultural cooperatives eligible for an enhanced 20% deduction
- A doubling of the exemption amount for the estate tax. (This was a compromise, I had hoped for total elimination.)
Of course, each farm is different, so farmers will have to consider their own circumstances to understand how much they might benefit from the above provisions. But I believe these changes to the tax code will enhance agriculture’s well-being in the United States and in the Ninth District.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.