The USDA is seeking a waiver of the “Buy American” provision of the Infrastructure Law. It says the provision could delay several rural infrastructure projects, including construction and broadband deployment.
The USDA seeks six months of extra time (to October 2023) for its ReConnect program, specifically for iron/steel, manufactured products and construction materials. The ReConnect Program offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that don’t have sufficient access to broadband.
According to the USDA, the Infrastructure Law requires projects receiving federal infrastructure funding to use products and materials which contain at least 55 percent domestic content. Congress intended implementation of the provision on May 14.
More time can help “avoid unintended negative impacts of immediate implementation to rural communities, residents, businesses, and the economy, such as: delayed deployment of critical broadband” and “reduced access to capital,” stresses USDA. Immediate implementation could also lead to “significant barriers” to the use of its rural programs by impoverished communities, people of color and Tribal Nations, it explains.
“Through these efforts, [USDA] will support efforts to catalyze domestic manufacturing, resilient supply chains, and good jobs – while successfully delivering a wide range of infrastructure projects. Pre-existing American Iron and Steel and Buy American provisions related to Rural Utilities Service programs will continue to apply during the waiver period,” notes the USDA.
The USDA is taking public input on the waiver request through July 18, via email at [email protected].
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief