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Rural leaders ask Congress for more natural disaster response

Rural community leaders impacted by recent natural disasters are urging Congress to strengthen infrastructure funding and response efforts.

During a hearing Wednesday, Minnesota farmer and County Commissioner Kevin Paap testified on the impact of a partial dam failure in his community last month that released more than 11.6 million cubic yards of sediment after severe flooding.

“Rural counties are often hindered in our ability to manage emergency response and recovery efforts due to limited personnel and limited funding,” he says. “These capacity challenges can lead to prolonged disruptions to infrastructure and services, as well as extended recovery periods and economical loss.”

Paap says farmers and rural residents need to know to who to go to for help and when it’s on its way.

“We know things can’t happen overnight, but when can we or should we expect an answer?” he asks. “I believe this process can and should be improved.”

Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Julie Moore says most rural utilities and communities don’t have the funds needed to recover from what are becoming more frequent and severe storms.

“I can’t overstate the importance of having available flexible, low cost or no cost money that can be deployed quickly following a disaster,” she says. “There simply isn’t time to wait for Congress to designate and appropriate additional disaster related funds.”

U.S. Senate Ag Committee democrats during the subcommittee hearing pointed to permanent Rural Development funding, the Rural Partners Program, and a new capacity programs included in Senator Stabenow’s farm bill as possible solutions for rural resilience.

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