— Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke on the Senate Floor to address the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on rural America—and the need to help our rural communities withstand this public health crisis and the resulting economic uncertainty.
“We must take immediate action to provide critical support that rural areas need…areas that may not have easy access to hospitals…may have smaller hospitals. That’s why that issue of funding for state and local governments as long as we make sure that the rural areas are able to share in this funding as well is so important,” Klobuchar said in her remarks.
“The rural hospitals, the equipment…all of this. And that is beyond what we all know already, and that is the food supply change, our nutrition program. We certainly don’t want a situation where you can’t get homegrown American food, just as we have learned with the supply chains of medical equipment you can’t always get the swabs that you need for so many of our testings and the like.
“We want to maintain not just some romantic vision of the past, our rural areas, we want to maintain them for America. It’s for having that food that’s ours and having it made in America so we’re not dependent on foreign food…It’s for having our own energy supply which can be varied and vast…It’s about having our own technology and developing the next new idea and the next new iPhone. We’re not going to be able to do that if we shut out a big swatch of our country. That’s not going to work. We actually want to encourage the development in rural America. That’s what I think we need to do.”
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Klobuchar has worked hard to ensure our rural economy is strong and rural communities have the tools they need to spur innovation, create jobs and opportunities, and confront the challenges posed by crises like COVID-19.
In May, following a request from Klobuchar, the Administration provided flexibility for doctors who assist in the fight against coronavirus. A request was made in April by Klobuchar, along with Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), and Brad Schneider (D-IL). Without a waiver of these restrictions, doctors in the Conrad 30 program who provide care in crisis locations, even remotely, would be putting their immigration status in jeopardy.
Klobuchar has advocated for many years for the Conrad 30 program, which allows doctors to stay in the United States without having to return home if they agree to practice in an underserved, often rural, area for three years. The “30” refers to the number of doctors per state that can participate in the program.
Earlier this month, Senator Klobuchar introduced The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act,which Klobuchar introduced earlier today in the Senate, which wouldill invest $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide and connect Americans to ensure they have increased access to education, health care, and business opportunities.
In May, Klobuchar and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced theSupporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Actto help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial needs can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would appropriate $1 billion to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill provides federal support for these colleges and universities to directly help students in need pay for at-home internet connections and equipment such as routers, modems, Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops, tablets, and internet-enabled devices to students.
In March 2020, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to sustain rural broadband connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. TheKeeping Critical Connections Act would appropriate $2 billion for a temporary Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help small broadband providers sustain internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families during the pandemic.
For years, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to strengthen the RFS to support American jobs and decrease dependence on foreign oil. Klobuchar has led several letters urging the Administration to cease issuing small refinery waivers and reject changes to the RFS that would upend stability and predictability for farmers and rural communities.
In June, Klobuchar led a bipartisan letter joined by Smith, with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reject petitions for Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for past compliance years.
In December 2019, Klobuchar led a public comment letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressing concern over the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. The senators argued that the proposed rule—which determines how much biofuel is required to be blended into our transportation fuel supply on an annual basis—fails to adequately account for the waivers, including those given to big oil companies. In October 2019, Klobuchar sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the agency to document the impact of small refinery waivers on farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage.
At a Senate Agriculture hearing in June, Klobuchar highlighted the urgent need to help farmers identify conservation techniques that would have the greatest benefit for the climate and farmers’ bottom lines.
As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee Klobuchar successfully pushed for key climate provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, including provisions to increase acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) by 3 million acres, invest in renewable energy programs including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), protect native prairies by fixing a loophole in the “Sodsaver” program, and improve the use of conservation data so that farmers are able to make better choices about conservation practices that benefit their yields and the environment – based on her Agriculture Data Act with Senator Thune.
Transcript of remarks as delivered below and video available HERE.