Agriculture Department Seeks Delay of ‘Buy American’ Mandate

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked for a six-month waiver of the “buy American” provision of Congress‘s Build America, Buy America Act (BABA), citing, among other things, broadband buildouts that would be negatively affected without that relief.

“The absence of a reasonable adjustment period will slow projects; result in customer confusion; delay the processing of funding obligations for much-needed infrastructure investments; disrupt established supply chains; increase the need for cost overrun awards due to project delays; and represent an unanticipated change in the rules for program applicants who submitted applications to open funding opportunities without the benefit of knowing the breadth or effect of the BABA guidance,” the USDA said.

USDA oversees a number of broadband-related grants, and said one of the outcomes of not getting the waiver would be to adversely affect “high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas.” That includes either delaying or canceling projects, it suggested.

The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service telecom buildout grants have Buy American provisions that pre-date the BABA mandate, but would impact its $1 billion-plus Rural Development Broadband ReConnect grant and loan program.

There is precedent for the waiver.

Back in 2009, the Commerce secretary granted broadband buildouts a limited waiver of the Buy American provisions of an economic stimulus bill. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.