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Congress advancing agriculture appropriations bill

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AG SPENDING: Agricultural appropriations bill advance on Capitol Hill for funding year 2022.
Senate's funding bill includes $7B in ag disaster assistance and House advances minibus bill including ag funding. 

In action Monday, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies approved a budget of $25.855 billion, which is an increase of $2.5 billion above fiscal year 2021 enacted level, in discretionary funding to support federal agriculture and nutrition programs in Fiscal Year 2022. The full Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the legislation on Wednesday. Last week the House advanced the agriculture spending bill as part of a minibus package. 

Included in the appropriations, senators advanced more than $7 billion in disaster assistance to help farmers and ranchers with losses due to drought and other natural disasters. This includes $6.28 billion for disaster assistance to aid producers who suffered losses due to droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other qualifying natural disasters in calendar year 2020 and 2021. It also includes $750 million for livestock producers for losses incurred during 2021 due to drought or wildfire. This disaster assistance will build on top of existing farm bill programs for livestock producers.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, says with many of our farmers and ranchers facing a severe drought and other natural disasters, the committee worked to include more than $7 billion in this year’s agriculture appropriations bill, including $750 million for livestock producers.

“This will help to cover losses and keep our producers in the game as they overcome these challenges,” says Hoeven.

Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., adds he appreciates Hoeven’s leadership to ensure that disaster assistance was included in this bill. “We are committed to working in a bipartisan manner with our Senate colleagues and our counterparts in the House to ensure we get much-needed disaster relief to producers impacted by these natural disasters,” Hoeven says.

Senate funding specifics

Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., says the bipartisan legislation is the product of members from both sides of the aisle working together to support a stronger and more resilient agriculture economy that works for our farmers, ranchers and families in rural communities.

“Developed with input from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, this bipartisan legislation will drive economic opportunities to farmers and invest in the long-term health of our working lands.  It will also invest in broadband and ensure that people facing challenging times have tools to move towards nutrition, health and housing security,” Baldwin says.

Specifically, the Senate version invests $3.6 billion in ag research programs including a $1.675 billion for Agricultural Research Service and $1.656 for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, including a $10 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.  The bill also fully funds the President’s request to support the continued establishment of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

“I am also very proud that our work together will make investments that support the Dairy Business Innovation Program, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, and research priorities for our dairy, specialty crop, and organic farmers,” Baldwin adds. “The full product of the subcommittee will help ensure that rural Americans have the tools to thrive in our global economy and build back better.”

The bill provides $937 million to the Natural Resources Conservation Service for Conservation Operations, $198 million for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations, and $10 million for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

The bill provides $1.178 billion for the Farm Service Agency, an increase of $35.4 million above the FY21 enacted level.  It prohibits the closure of FSA county offices and provides resources for IT improvements and personnel across county offices.  The bill also increases funding for direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans to meet expected demand.

The bill provides $1.125 billion for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an increase of more than $57 million above the FY21 enacted level.  The funding will help protect the nation’s animal and plant resources from diseases and pests such as chronic wasting disease and cotton pests.

The bill provides $3.56 billion to support the Rural Development mission areas, including $700 million for the ReConnect Broadband Pilot, $450 million for rural water and waste programs, and $1.45 billion for rental assistance for affordable rental housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities.  The bill also provides $1.45 billion in loan authority for rural water and waste programs, $30 billion in loan authority for the Single Family Housing guaranteed loan program, and $1.5 billion in grants and loans for rural business and industry programs that promote small business growth in rural areas.

The bill provides $1.76 billion for Food for Peace Title II Grants, an increase of $20 million, and $245 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, an increase of $15 million.

House increases ag investments

The House Agriculture Committee on July 28 passed H.R. 267, the 2020 Wildlife and Hurricane Indemnity Programs Plus Reauthorization Act, including the On-Farm Storage Loss and Milk Loss Programs for 2020 and 2021.

Related: House Ag Committee advances $8.5M in ag disaster aid

On July 29 the full House passed, on a 219-208 vote, its annual appropriations bill with seven appropriations bill including agricultural funding. The “minibus” included a total of $26.55 billion, which is $2.85 billion over fiscal year 2021 for USDA and related agencies.

Chair of the House Agriculture appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., says the bill addresses three key priorities: “First, it provides nearly $400 million in investments to ensure equitable participation in USDA programs. Second, the bill provides nearly $350 million to address the impacts of climate change. And third, it fully funds federal pay costs and it rebuilds the leadership offices at USDA that were decimated over the past several years.”

The American Soybean Association led an effort with other agricultural stakeholder groups to help defeat an anti-neonicotinoid pesticide amendment. The amendment - offered and later withdrawn by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. - sought to ban federal funds from being used to register neonicotinoid pesticides, effectively banning the chemistries.

The House voted not to adopt amendments that would withhold funding from the administration, thus preventing it from repealing, revising, or replacing the current Waters of the U.S. rule or implementing the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which includes the 30x30 initiative. No amendments to cut crop insurance or the farm safety net were considered by the House.

The bill provides $4.7 billion for Rural Development initiatives, including more than $900 million for broadband expansion to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and healthcare services in rural communities.

The bill provides $2.9 billion in farm and conservation programs, $3.4 billion for agricultural research including a significant increase for the 1890 land-grant institutions, and $1.74 billion for Food for Peace grants and $245 million for the McGovern-Dole program to use our agriculture commodities in support of our nation’s diplomacy.

Despite this movement in the House prior to the August recess, it is all but inevitable that Congress will have to return in the fall and pass a Continuing Resolution in order to avoid a government shutdown on October 1.

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