Update: Biden’s infrastructure proposals

by Rhyann Green

On March 31, President Biden proposed The American Jobs Plan. The bill outlines $2.25 trillion dollars to be devoted to funding infrastructure improvements across the country and creating jobs after the high levels of unemployment caused by COVID-19.

The plan includes funding to support rural communities in several ways. According to the White House press statement, on the American Jobs Plan, $100 billion will be devoted to securing broadband internet access for every American citizen. Another $111 billion is set aside for upgrading water systems in rural areas and ensuring clean drinking water.

Other sections of the bill targeted toward rural communities include cleaning up abandoned mines, support for community colleges, creating affordable housing and moving toward renewable energy sources.

Funding for the bill will be achieved by increasing the corporate tax rate to 28%. It currently stands at 21% after a previous decrease in 2017. In the White House’s statement, the administration stated it intended this increase to cover the finances of the bill within 15 years.

Senate Republicans unveiled their own infrastructure plan to counter Biden’s on April 22. Politico reports the Republican version is much less money, totaling at $568 billion. Over half of the sum would be devoted solely to roads and bridges. Under this plan, efforts to increase broadband access would receive $65 billion. Rather than increasing taxes, the plan’s proponents argue it should be paid through existing structures and discretionary funds.

The Washington Post predicted Biden’s second plan targeting infrastructure and economic development will be presented by the end of April. The following proposal is suspected to address the domestic domain with tax credits and sections on paid family leave and child care.

UN Food Systems Summit reveals tensions

By: Jessy Swisher

On World Food Day in 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the first ever UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). UNFSS would provide a forum for food systems transformation, as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Organizers have sought to engender a year-long process of global dialogues leading up to the September 2021 Summit.

Critiques of the Summit primarily revolve around the organizing and governing body and its structure, which has been characterized as a top-down corporate model of governance with lack of transparency in decision-making, concealing conflicts of interest and failing to utilize existing governing mechanisms. It lacks a human right to food framework and does not adequately address food sovereignty or agroecology. It is also unclear how input generated from dialogues will feed into the Summit’s agenda, and what organizational body will oversee work on outcomes that arise from the Summit.

While the main Summit will take place this fall, “by then all the work will be done,” says Michael Fakhri, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

In a recent webinar, he explained, “The Summit is happening now, and the contest over what the Summit means is in play, right now.” Fakhri noted that the human right to food was just added to the agenda in January, and the FAO was just invited to participate in February.

But are these changes too little, too late?

On April 15, scientists and academics, all members of the Agroecology Research-Action Collective, announced their boycott of the Summit and issued a petition for others to join in.

International policy can affect how our agricultural systems operate and the ways we provide for the poor and undernourished, address obesity and mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss. Given that, much is at stake.

Learn more in the further reading links and assess whether involvement with the Summit dialogues is right for you.