Tunnel collapse shows value of upkeep

Needs for bridges, roads and pipelines are often drowned out by larger controversies that, ironically, have less impact on our day-to-day lives.

And yet, when infrastructure fails, it can cause big problems and costly hardship. Consider the irrigation tunnel collapse last month. The blocked tunnel caused flooding and blocked water from reaching farmland.

It’s part of an irrigation system that spans roughly 130 miles in Wyoming and Nebraska, one that feeds more than 100,000 acres of crops. So when it failed, the impact was profound and widespread.

Researchers in the two states estimate the collapse will cause roughly $89 million in economic losses.

More than 700 farmers are directly affected. But the impact is much greater considering all of the businesses that provide goods and services to those farmers.

The incident and its painful aftermath still highlight the importance of routine examinations and maintenance to ensure that our infrastructure remains safe and intact.

- Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune

Relocating scientists hurts Midwest

The Trump administration has orchestrated a way to get rid of vital government workers who research everything from food security to climate change: Move their offices 1,000 miles from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City.

Though one may not be able to conclusively know this is a tactic to purge scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it certainly is the result. It reported fewer than 40% of those affected accepted their transfer assignments. That means the loss of hundreds of workers, along with years of their knowledge and experience.

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White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney recently told a group of Republicans the plan to relocate hundreds of jobs "is a wonderful way to streamline government," as it is "nearly impossible" to fire federal workers.

Plus, the relocation may not even be legal. The USDA's own inspector general issued a report this month saying the department may have broken the law by not obtaining congressional approval.

Yet the Trump administration is proceeding with an unnecessary move that jeopardizes research related to agriculture, rural economic development and this country's food supply – some of the most important work government does.

- Des Moines (Iowa) Register

RFS waivers must be probed

Good for members of Congress who called for a review of waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard granted to refineries by the Environmental Protection Agency.

RFS waivers have increased dramatically under the Trump administration. No more than eight waivers were granted in any one year between 2013 and 2015, but the EPA retroactively granted 19 waivers for 2016, then granted 35 waivers for 2017 and 31 for 2018.

Concern in farm country about the waivers grew in a week when agriculture braced for an escalation of the U.S. trade war with China.

On Friday, China announced tariffs on another $75 billion of U.S. goods, including imposition on Sept. 1 of a 10 percent tariff on agriculture products like soybeans, beef and chicken. This at a time when agriculture continues to bear a heavy burden in the U.S.-China trade dispute Americans have watched deepen since the first tariffs were imposed nearly a year and a half ago.

The request for a probe of refinery waivers is a good step, but our elected leaders must protect agriculture interests essential to the economy of Midwest states.

- Sioux City (Iowa) Journal

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