SUMMARY: FY 2020 Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill

Washington, D.C. – The fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies provides discretionary funding of $23.1 billion.  This amount is $58 million over the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $4.1 billion over the budget request.   

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Ranking Member of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies subcommittee, said:

This bill will support critical programs that communities across America rely on every day. We have worked hard to develop bipartisan consensus, and have soundly rejected devastating cuts proposed by the Administration that would have eliminated vital rural housing, small business and clean water programs. Our bill also protects conservation and agriculture research programs that help our farmers and ranchers continue to be the most productive and efficient in the world, and maintains significant investments in rural broadband and water and wastewater programs. Unfortunately, this bill has one problematic issue in its support for the forced relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which would do irreparable harm to cutting-edge research agencies whose work the American agriculture industry relies on. I hope that we can work with our colleagues in the House to do better before a final bill is signed into law. In the meantime, I will work to advance the rest of this bill’s significant and important investments that will improve quality of life across rural communities and for all Americans.

Key Points & Highlights –   The agriculture bill provides funding for the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.  The work of these agencies impacts the lives of every American.  From food safety, medical product safety, research, and key nutrition programs, this bill provides USDA and FDA the resources they need to continue their important work.  Rural America is prioritized in this bill with funding for housing, rural business development, and critical water and waste improvements.  These vital programs support job creation and improvement to the rural economy.  Conservation funding ensures American farmers remain the most productive in the world, while continuing to be good stewards of the land through investments in new and innovative conservation approaches.  Most importantly, this bill protects these programs by rejecting the President’s devastating budget proposal.

Agriculture Research

Total funding for agriculture research is $3.477 billion, $607 million above the President’s budget request.

  • Agricultural Research Service:  The Agricultural Research Service is funded at $1.424 billion, which is $121 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $221 million above the President’s budget request.  All research activities in fiscal year 2019 are maintained and the bill again does not allow for the termination of research programs or the closure of laboratories. 
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture:  Total funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture is $1.484 billion, which is $13 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $93 million above the President’s budget request.  Included in this increase is $3 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and an increase of $10 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
  • Regrettably, the bill includes $25 million for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Economic Research Service to move from the National Capital Region to Kansas City. 

Agricultural Marketing Service

  • The bill includes $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill and a $1 million increase to the National Organic Program (NOP), bringing total funding to $15.094 million.   The bill also includes $20 million for the new Dairy Business Innovation Program, which was recently authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill to support dairies hoping to diversify with on-farm processing and product marketing.

  • The bill directs the Secretary to complete work on the proposed rule for organic dairy operations concerning how and when conventionally raised animals can be brought into organic production systems. This will finally close a loophole that has caused unfair and inconsistent interpretations of organic standards to the detriment of organic family farmers who have followed the spirit and intent of the Organic Foods Production Act. 


  • The bill provides $835 million for Conservation Operations, which is $15.7 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level and $80 million above the President’s budget request. This funding will assist producers implementing voluntary conservation measures on their farms and is critically important this year as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works to implement the changes in the 2018 Farm Bill. 
  • The bill also increases funding for the Watershed and Flood Prevention program, which provides technical and financial assistance to local entities for watershed structures, easements and land treatments for mitigating flood risks.  This important infrastructure program, which protects homeowners and public facilities, was proposed to be eliminated in the President’s budget.  

Rural Development

Funding and program levels for Rural Development are all generally maintained at fiscal year 2019 levels.

  • Housing Programs: The bill rejects the Administration’s mean-spirited proposal to eliminate the bulk of USDA’s rural housing programs.  All rural housing programs are maintained at the fiscal year 2019 levels, with the exception of Rental Assistance’s $44 million increase to $1.375 billion, and a $5 million increase in housing vouchers to $32 million.
  • Water and Waste Disposal Programs:  Water and Waste direct loans are maintained at $1.4 billion while Water and Waste grants are maintained at $549 million.  These programs increase the availability of clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems to small, remote rural communities.
  • Rural Business Programs:  The bill provides $950 million in Business and Industry loans and rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate business grants, which are increased by $3 million.  These programs promote job creation and income generation in rural areas.
  • Community Facilities Loans and Grants:  The bill maintains the Community Facilities program at just under $3 billion.  These loans and grants can be used for any essential community facility, including hospitals, health clinics, schools, public buildings, health and safety vehicles and equipment, etc.


The nutrition programs funded in this bill are an important safety net for some of the most vulnerable Americans.  This bill protects all nutrition programs and rejects the budget proposal that would have devastated participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

  • Child Nutrition Programs:  Total funding for Child Nutrition Programs is $23.602 billion.  Included in this funding is $30 million for school equipment grants and $28 million for Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). 
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC):  The bill provides full funding for the program, which will serve over 6 million mothers and children each month.  The funding level also includes $80 million for breastfeeding support services.
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program: The bill provides $245 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which will provide seniors with healthy and nutritious supplemental food.  The President’s budget proposed to eliminate this program. 

International Food Aid 

The bill, again, rejects the ill-advised budget proposal to eliminate important international food aid programs. Alleviating global hunger is critical to U.S. national security, which is why this bill invests in programs that reduce famine and increase food security around the world.

  • PL 480 Title II:  Although the President’s budget again proposed to take aim at the most vulnerable people in the world, this bill rejects that proposal and maintains funding for PL 480 at the fiscal year 2019 level of $1.716 billion. 
  • McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program:  The McGovern-Dole program is funded at $210 million.  Included in this funding is $15 million for local and regional procurement.  This program, which provides food to children in school in developing countries, is often the only reason those children, especially girls, keep going to school.  The President’s budget once again proposed to eliminate this vital program.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has significant responsibility to ensure the safety of America’s food and drug supply.  The bill provides an $80 million increase for the FDA.  Included in this increase is $7 million for Medical Countermeasures Initiatives; $10 million to reduce pathogens in the blood supply; $6 million for compounding prescription drugs; $7 million for advancing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA); $8 million for FDA to respond to food outbreaks; and $2 million for Cannabidiol activities.  The bill also includes $15 million to address urgent infrastructure needs at FDA buildings and laboratories. 

The FDA has a significant responsibility to consider the public health impact of opioid misuse, abuse, diversion and overdose deaths.  The bill includes an increase of $8 million for FDA to continue its activities, begun in fiscal year 2018, in response to this crisis.