Aug 4, 2021
Sustainable ag coalition responds to Senate markup of ag spending bill

The Senate Committee on Appropriations Aug. 4 advanced the Fiscal Year 2022 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies spending bill by a bipartisan vote of 25-5.

The legislation recommends $25.855 billion in discretionary funding to support federal agriculture and nutrition programs and $7.030 billion in emergency funding following various natural disasters impacting farmers and ranchers, according to a news release. The measure supports USDA agriculture, rural development, conservation, and food and drug safety programs. Additionally, the bill provides essential nutrition assistance for children, families, and seniors; creates incentives for military veterans to enter careers in agriculture; and supports significant resources to combat the opioid epidemic. The mandatory funding in the bill totals $169.587 billion.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director Eric Deeble said the legislation included many priorities of sustainable growers.

“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition commends Senate appropriators for coming together in a bipartisan manner to provide robust funding for many priorities of the sustainable agriculture community,” Deeble said in a news release. “This brings us one step closer to a final spending package for agriculture for the coming fiscal year, one that invests in addressing climate change, increases funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), and bolsters local and regional food systems through investments in small and very small meat and poultry processing and healthy food access at farmers markets.

“NSAC is pleased to see the Senate Appropriations Committee provide a $5 million increase to SARE (for a total of $45 million), along with investments in addressing climate change, including $15 million for a new Working Lands Resiliency Program. However, we also recognize that the level of investment is insufficient when compared to the scale of the problem. That is why we are looking to the Senate Budget Committee’s forthcoming Budget Reconciliation package to provide the kind of investments in climate-smart agriculture that are essential to meeting the challenge of our times and to ensuring American agriculture can meet the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

In his opening statement, committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont applauded bipartisan efforts said that “for the first time in over a decade, the bills we are considering contain congressionally directed spending requests identified by members of this Committee and of the full Senate. The Constitution vests Congress with the power of the purse, and it is it this Committee that wields that power.  I believe we should use it responsibly and transparently to address the needs of our communities.  Senators know the needs of their states better than unelected bureaucrats, and these bills provide an opportunity to directly address those needs.  The Appropriations Committee has spent the last two months diligently reviewing and vetting member’s requests, all of which are available to the public, and I believe the projects included in these three bills will address critical needs across this nation.”

Senate Republicans in the committee were also upbeat on its agricultural provisions.

“This strong bill provides needed resources for our nation’s agriculture and is vital to the success and quality of life for farming and ranching communities throughout rural America.  I thank Senators Hoeven and Baldwin for their good work and encourage my colleagues to support this important legislation,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Alabama.

“Given the extreme drought and other natural disasters in farm country, we worked hard to secure more than $7 billion in much-needed disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers in North Dakota and across the country, including $750 million specifically designed to provide much-needed drought relief for livestock producers,” said U.S Senator John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, ranking member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.  “At the same time, this agriculture funding legislation ensures that we meet the needs of rural America, including fully funding Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct, guaranteed and emergency loans, strong support for agricultural research and continued investment in rural broadband development.  This legislation provides strong funding to support our farmers, ranchers and rural America.”

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