GUEST COLUMN: Time is now to act on ARIP funding

Brad Olson
Guest Columnist

For many years, we have seen tension between local governments and farmers caused by the need to haul heavy loads over roads and bridges that weren’t up to the task. These crumbling pieces of infrastructure are often due to limited funding to improve them, not because local officials didn’t want to do so.

Substandard roads impede the efficient transportation of goods, hamstring local economies and can create friction between neighbors and with local officials facing tight budgets.

As the president of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and a member of my local board of supervisors, I am encouraging farmers and local officials to apply for a new state program aimed to fix and enhance rural Wisconsin roads that farmers rely on to get their goods to market.

The Agricultural Road Improvement Program (ARIP) is a milestone in our collective efforts to modernize Wisconsin’s agricultural infrastructure. By participating in ARIP, local governments can receive funding to address the dire need to fix and upgrade deteriorated local roadways that challenge our agricultural economy. This $150 million competitive grant program will cover up to 90% of the costs for local road projects.

With $50 million available in the first round of grant applications due April 5, the time to act is now.

Collaboration between local officials and farmers is essential to ensure the success of ARIP. Program priority will be given to projects providing the greatest benefit to farmers, so local officials need information directly from farmers to submit a successful application.

To assist in providing local officials with this information, we’ve created a resource available on our website and through other agricultural organizations.

By providing economic impact information and sharing how the project would affect your business, you can help local governments improve rural roads, benefiting not only your fellow farmers but everyone who utilizes that road. This program provides a unique opportunity, but it requires cooperation and time is of the essence.

As a farmer and local official, I strongly encourage rural residents to look at their road inventory and consider applying for these grant funds. Together, let us seize this opportunity to revitalize our agricultural infrastructure, ensuring a prosperous future for our farming and rural communities.

Brad Olson is president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.