Washington, DC— On Friday, leading rural, agricultural, business, and public health organizations released a letter to Congress requesting financial relief for farms and rural communities across the country. Specifically, the letter asks that Congress extend the temporary fuel tax relief that was given to commercial aviation operators through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to non-commercial general aviation operators.
“General aviation and our network of airports support the health and economic well-being of communities across the country,” said Andrew Moore, Executive Director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association. “It is crucial that as businesses, farms and communities struggle to recover, that we support general aviation, which is a crucial economic driver representing $247 billion in annual economic output nationwide and 1.2 million American jobs.”
Across the county, general aviation operations were down by 49% in May compared to the same month last year. Airports across the country have reported significant downturns within their local communities as well of up to 95%.
“General aviation is critical to food and agricultural production, which is based in rural communities across the country,” said Betsy Huber, President of the National Grange. “These communities are being deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we should make sure that rural America has every tool available to make a strong recovery.”
Metropolitan counties announced a decrease of new cases by 10% over the week ending in May 9, while rural counties announced an increase of 8% in new cases over the same week. (USA Today) In late April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that nearly 5,000 workers at meat and poultry packing facilities across 19 states have tested positive for COVID-19. (US News & World Report) Since March, 30 meatpacking plants have been temporarily closed. As a result, the United States is seeing 40% less pork production and a 25% reduction in beef production. (MarketWatch)
Niel Ritchie, Senior Advisor at the Main Street Project, said “General aviation and community airports are a lifeblood to towns and small cities across America. They serve as a vital connection for businesses and farms to access other small markets, and this network supports emergency services, medical care, fire fighting, wildlife management, disaster relief, and many other critical services. We must support this critical lifeline.”
About 20% of the 2,743 counties that have had COVID-19 cases do not have a hospital. Counties without hospitals have seen more than 15,000 COVID-related deaths, equating to 23 per 100,000 residents. (USA Today)
There are more than 5,000 public-use airports across the country, and most commercial airline traffic goes through only the 30 largest hubs. For thousands of cities and towns, general aviation is a critical lifeline, especially for farms and small businesses.
Here are a few examples of how this crisis has impacted the country:
The full text of the letter is below. To view the letter online, click here.
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leaders McConnell, McCarthy and Schumer:
On behalf of businesses, farms, and agricultural and rural organizations around the country, thank you for your significant efforts to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which is providing relief to small businesses, farms, and rural communities that depend on general aviation. Through provisions such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), many employers are receiving relief that allows them to retain employees, and we applaud your work to inject additional funds into that program. Even with the added funds, some businesses are still struggling to access the PPP, and we appreciate your continued attention to this matter.
However, the general aviation industry, which includes all operations outside of commercial and military aviation, needs additional relief. Across the country, there are more than 5,000 public-use airports. Commercial airline service only goes to a fraction of these communities, so for farms and businesses in these places, local airports and general aviation are the only access to reach plants and jobsites in remote areas of the country; they support power line maintenance, sustain our food supply, and help these farms survey and monitor crops and farmland. In fact, each year, the agricultural aviation industry treats 127 million acres of cropland. And, general aviation across the country supports $247 billion in economic impact annually and 1.2 million American jobs.
As Congress considers a fourth relief package, we respectfully request that fuel taxes paid by non-commercial operators also be suspended. This temporary suspension of taxes is similar to what the commercial airlines received and will assist thousands of small businesses, farms, and communities that depend on general aviation.
General aviation and local airports are not only a key economic driver, but they provide communities with critical services, including law enforcement, fire fighting, emergency and non-emergency medical transportation, and search and rescue operations. Most recently, volunteer pilots are using their own aircraft to deliver test kits to labs in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Students at aeronautical universities are fabricating masks and shields to support our frontline nurses and doctors.
The businesses, farms and rural communities that depend on this form of transportation have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. General aviation operations are down by more than 70% across the nation, and some smaller airports facing traffic declines of up to 95%. Over a thousand rural communities have already been affected by this crisis, and this is exacerbated by the fact that over 11 million Americans live in a county that does not have a hospital, and an additional 18 million live in a county with no intensive care unit.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in non-metro counties, coronavirus cases increased by 125%, and coronavirus deaths increased 169% between April 13 and April 27, while metro counties saw a 68% increase in cases. Nearly 5,000 workers at meat and poultry packing facilities across 19 states have tested positive for COVID-19. In one county in Iowa, 90% of the more than 1,300 cases can be traced to the local pork processing facility. Air medical services, which are vital for transporting patients and providing emergency services to those in rural areas, have seen up to a 40% reduction in air medical transportation due to this crisis.
As we attempt to revitalize our economy, we need to give our small businesses, entrepreneurs, farmers, and communities every tool available to succeed, and connectivity will ultimately be critical to this effort. This relief will help ensure that businesses and communities across the country retain access to this vital form of transportation at a critical time for our country.
National Agricultural Aviation Association
Maryland Farm Bureau
Arizona Farm Bureau
Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers
California Farm Bureau Federation
New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau
Michigan Chamber of Commerce
National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
Ohio Forestry Association, Inc.
Main Street Project
Georgia Farm Bureau
The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
California Fresh Fruit Association
South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Oregon State Chamber of Commerce
Formed in 2007, the Alliance for Aviation Across America is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of more than 6,300 individuals representing businesses, agricultural groups FBO’s, small airports, elected officials, charitable organizations, and leading business and aviation groups that support the interest of the general aviation community across various public policy issues.