USDA Rural Development Accepting Public Comments on Build America, Buy America Waiver

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) is accepting public comments on a proposed 6-month waiver for implementation of the Build America, Buy America Act.

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) established a requirement that a substantial amount of materials used in federally supported infrastructure projects be produced within the United States.

According to a National Association of Counties (NACo) blog:

NACo submitted comments to USDA RD expressing concern that immediately expanding BABA before local governments have time to comply could delay progress on badly needed transportation and infrastructure projects and strongly support USDA RD’s proposed waiver. Immediate expansion of BABA could create extreme unintended consequences, especially for rural counties that oftentimes face various barriers to economic development and other obstacles due to unique geographical challenges.

While county governments support the intent of BABA to reinvigorate U.S. domestic manufacturing, we believe that federal regulations with the potential to impede the delivery of infrastructure projects to our residents must be logically implemented. To ensure that infrastructure projects subject to BABA are delivered to residents on time and on budget, the federal government should ensure that domestic manufacturers have the capacity to supply the materials and components these projects require.

If accepted, the six-month adjustment period would allow counties across the nation to plan for and avoid potential negative outcomes of immediate BABA implementation, such as:

  • Delayed deployment of critical broadband, water and community infrastructure
  • Reduced access to capital for rural businesses and critical community investments such as schools, hospitals and first responder facilities
  • Decreased investment for rural clean energy projects and transition away from fossil fuels
  • Slowed participation in the new USDA food supply chain programs resulting in continued food supply chain gaps for the country
  • Underinvestment in the upkeep and upgrading of multi-family housing facilities that house rural America’s most vulnerable residents
  • Creation of significant barriers to the use of RD programs by socially vulnerable, distressed, and high-poverty rural communities, including communities of color and Tribal Nations

As significant investors in and stewards of the nation’s infrastructure, counties have made reducing regulatory hurdles to address our nation’s aging infrastructure a longstanding priority. Counties support the mission of USDA and opportunities to enhance rural development and quality of life in rural communities.

Public comments must be submitted to by July 18.

Learn more about the waiver and public comment period.

Read the full NACo blog for further information.