The 2020 ag-funding bill that came out of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee this week, addresses a broad sweep of the rural landscape. The legislation, which is under consideration by a House subcommittee, funds agencies and programs within the Department of Agriculture, the Farm Credit Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Among the items included in the bill is “language blocking USDA’s proposal to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside the National Capital Region.”
Under the 2020 Bill “Language section”:
- The bill includes language blocking USDA’s proposal to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside the National Capital Region.
- The bill also blocks USDA’s proposal to put ERS, currently under USDA’s research mission area, under the Office of the Chief Economist, which is under the Office of the Secretary.
- The bill requires USDA to restore on its website in full all animal welfare and horse protection inspection reports that were taken down weeks after the Trump administration took office.
The bill rejects the USDA’s proposed 50% cut to ERS programs, which include the following research areas:
1. Farm, conservation, and trade policy
2. Food assistance, nutrition, and diet quality
3. Rural economy and well-being
4. Food safety
U.S. Farm-Related Items in the 2020 Funding Bill
The bill provides $183 million, $24 million above 2019 and $68 million above the request, to facilitate the movement of agriculture products and open market opportunities. This includes $18 million for the National Organic Program to protect the integrity of the USDA Organic label and $16.5 million for the new hemp production program. The bill also provides $23.4 million in discretionary funds to the Agricultural Marketing Service and Rural Development for the Local Agriculture Market Program to continue supporting local food and value-added agriculture.
The legislation provides $1.802 billion for farm programs, which is $32.1 million above the fiscal year 2019 level. This includes an increase of $30 million for 2018 farm bill implementation. This funding will continue support for various farm, conservation, and emergency loan programs, and help American farmers and ranchers. It will also meet estimates of demand for farm loan programs.
Rural Development and Infrastructure
The bill provides a total of more than $3.943 billion for rural development programs. These programs help create an environment for economic growth by providing business and housing opportunities and building sustainable rural infrastructure for the modern economy.
- Critical Infrastructure – The legislation includes responsible investments in infrastructure to help rural areas of the country access basic utilities. This includes $1.45 billion for rural water and waste program loans, and over $655 million in water and waste grants for clean and reliable drinking water systems and sanitary waste disposal systems. An additional $6.9 billion in loan authority is provided for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans.
- Rural Broadband – The legislation invests over $680 million in the expansion of broadband service to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and healthcare services. These significant investments in broadband reflect a commitment to enabling Americans in rural communities to access digital tools necessary to improve health, educational, and economic outcomes.
- Marketing Programs – The bill provides $183 million, $24 million above 2019 and $68 million above the request, to facilitate the movement of agriculture products and open market opportunities. This includes $18 million for the National Organic Program to protect the integrity of the USDA Organic label and $16.5 million for the new hemp production program. The bill also provides $23.4 million in discretionary funds to the Agricultural Marketing Service and Rural Development for the Local Agriculture Market Program to continue supporting local food and value-added agriculture.
- Farm Programs – The legislation provides $1.802 billion for farm programs, which is $32.1 million above the fiscal year 2019 level. This includes an increase of $30 million for 2018 farm bill implementation. This funding will continue support for various farm, conservation, and emergency loan programs, and help American farmers and ranchers. It will also meet estimates of demand for farm loan programs.
- Animal and Plant Health – The legislation includes $1.04 billion – $23 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level – for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This funding will support programs to help control or eradicate plant and animal pests and diseases that can be crippling to U.S. producers. The funding level provides increases that will help address harmful pests and diseases such as cattle fever ticks and chronic wasting disease, while maintaining increases from past years for citrus greening.
- Conservation Programs – The bill provides $996.6 million to help farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners conserve and protect their land. This includes $167 million for infrastructure for watershed and flood prevention and watershed rehabilitation projects.
- Agricultural Research – The bill provides $3.257 billion – $387 million above the budget request – for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). This funding will support research at all ARS facilities to help mitigate and stop devastating crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, increase production, and combat antimicrobial resistance. Continued investment in ARS buildings and facilities is included to address deferred maintenance needs. This funding also includes important research investments in U.S. land-grant colleges and universities, including a significant increase for the 1890 institutions, and for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s premier competitive research program.
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – Included in the bill is $315 million for the CFTC, which is the same as the request and $47 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
Other Items Addressed by the 2020 Bill
Food and Nutrition Programs – The legislation contains discretionary funding, as well as mandatory funding required by law, for food and nutrition programs within the Department of Agriculture. This includes funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child nutrition programs.
- Rural Housing Loans and Rental Assistance – The bill provides a total of $24 billion in loan authority for the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. The bill includes $1 billion in direct single family housing loans, meeting the estimated need for these loans, which provide home loan assistance to low-income rural families, many of whom would have few loan options for purchasing a home because of their geographical location. In addition, $1.375 billion is provided for rental assistance for affordable rental housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities for renewal of all existing rental assistance contracts.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – The bill provides $6 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is $75 million below the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. Because of declining enrollments in the program, WIC has large carryover balances left over from previous years. The bill rescinds $800 million in these unobligated balances, which will have no impact on participation in the program.
- Child nutrition programs – The bill provides for $23.956 billion in required mandatory funding – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for child nutrition programs. This is $873 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. This funding will provide free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks for children who qualify for the program. The bill provides approximately $552 million for the Summer Food Service Program to ensure low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. In addition, the bill provides $50 million for the Summer EBT program, $35 million for school kitchen equipment grants, and $10 million for school breakfast expansion grants – the first time since 2012 the program has been funded.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – The bill provides for $71.1 billion in required mandatory spending for SNAP. This includes $5 billion for the SNAP reserve fund.
- International Food Assistance Programs – The legislation contains $2.1 billion for international food aid and to promote U.S. agricultural exports overseas. This includes $1.85 billion for Food for Peace grants and $235 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program. These programs work to reduce famine and increase food security overseas.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – The FDA receives a total of $3.26 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, $184 million above the 2019 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $5.86 billion. Within this total, the Committee provides target increases for medical product and food safety activities, including new initiatives to revolutionize the safety of the nation’s blood supply and to enable faster responses to foodborne illness outbreaks. In addition, the bill includes a strong focus on continuing FDA’s efforts to advance generic drug reviews and increase medical product manufacturing in the U.S. The bill also appropriates $75 million to accelerate medical product development as authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service – The legislation includes $1.05 billion for food safety and inspection programs. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country’s meat and poultry industry, and keep safe, healthy food on American tables. The funding provided will maintain nearly 8,800 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry, and egg products at more than 6,400 facilities across the country.