U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is serving as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture during this Congress. The Wisconsin Democrat recently discussed her goals in that role, starting with recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were a lot of underlying challenges to dairy and agriculture prior to the pandemic but the pandemic, as we know, wreaks havoc on our economy, and particularly in agriculture issues like food supply chain disruptions and responding to food insecurity in the general population as people lost jobs and needed to perhaps the first time in their lives, go to a food bank or sign up for the SNAP program. So, a lot of those pandemic related issues are top of mind.”
From there, her goals include building a more resilient agricultural economy, deploying broadband to underserved communities and getting full funding for things like the Dairy Business Innovation Initiative. On broadband, Baldwin says the federal government needs a master plan to follow.
“Part of the challenge of course is not only the piecemeal approach but that there’s three different entities that provide funding to build the last mile or increase the speeds, etc. There’s the Federal Communications Commission there’s the NTIA, and then there’s USDA Rural Development funds, all of which go to expanding access to broadband, but I think, don’t coordinate with each other as much as they need to. We need a master plan we need to treat this as though it were rural electrification.”
Other priorities include enforcement of labeling rules for plant-based imitation products, and focusing on rural hospitals.
“Pandemic times or not pandemic times, it is absolutely essential that people who live in rural communities have access to what are often known as critical access hospitals, and that we reduce barriers to getting comprehensive health care, not increase them by increasing the miles people have to drive. I am very committed to rural hospitals and critical access hospitals. Oftentimes rural hospitals are the biggest employer in a county. And those are generally good paying jobs. So, they become really the lifeline, the lifeblood of local communities. The struggles that we’ve seen during the pandemic in particular have been very difficult.”
In addition to serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Baldwin serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.