SUMMARY: Senate Subcommittee Approves FY2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill
Washington, D.C. – The fiscal year 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill provides a total discretionary funding level of $23.235 billion, which is $225 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level and $6.13 billion more than the President’s request. The bill does not contain poison pill riders.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ranking Member of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said: “This bill funds important programs that Americans rely on every day. It was developed in a bipartisan manner, and soundly rejects devastating cuts proposed by the Administration that would have eliminated vital rural housing, small business and clean water programs. The 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. We provide important funding for the Food and Drug Administration to enhance their food safety efforts and their work to address the opioid crisis, as well as to modernize the generic drug review system. Many of these investments were made possible because of the Bipartisan Budget Act, and will improve the quality of life for all Americans.”
Key Points & Highlights – The agriculture bill funds the activities of the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (USDA). The funding in this bill impacts the lives of every American, every day. It includes programs that make rural America a better place to live and do business, conservation and research programs that help our farmers and ranchers succeed, and nutrition programs that feed people at home and throughout the world. The Food and Drug Administration ensures the safety of the food and drug supply in an increasingly complex world. Although the President again wanted to cut important USDA funding by more than 25 percent, this bill rejects those shortsighted proposals and supports the USDA and its work.
Key USDA programs are described below:
Total funding for agriculture research is $2.726 billion, which is $449 million more than the President’s request.
- Agricultural Research Service: Total funding for ARS, USDA’s premiere in house research agency, is $1.301 billion, which is $282 million more than the budget request. The bill 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 $1.425 billion, which is $17 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level, and $167 million more than the President’s budget request. Included in this funding is $405 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, $37 million for the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education Program, $8 million for the Food Safety Outreach Program, $6 million for the Organic Transition Program, and $2 million for a pilot program to address the high suicide rates among farmers.
Agricultural Marketing Service
- The Agricultural Marketing Service includes a $3 million increase to the National Organic Program, bringing total National Organic Program funding to $15 million. At a time when the organics industry is growing at an extremely rapid pace and imports of organic foods are increasing significantly, this program is important to protect the value of the USDA organic seal, ensuring that consumers can remain confident in the integrity of these products.
- The bill provides a slight increase for conservation technical assistance, which helps producers implement voluntary conservation measures on their farms. The President’s budget proposed to cut funding for these activities by more than 20 percent.
- The bill maintains 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.
Funding and program levels for Rural Development are all generally maintained at fiscal year 2018 levels.
- Housing Programs: This bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate single family and multi-family housing direct loans. These programs offer homeownership opportunities and affordable rental housing for very low and low income rural households. The bill provides $1.1 billion in single family housing direct loans and $40 million in multi-family housing direct loans. Rural housing needs, however, continue to significantly outweigh the assistance provided in this bill.
- Water and Waste Disposal Programs: The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate grant programs that enable remote rural communities to obtain clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems. Over $2.2 billion in loans and grants are provided, which will assist over 4.2 million rural residents. Of this funding, $400 million is made available as part of the infrastructure initiative agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act.
- Rural Business Programs: The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate loan and grant programs that promote rural business development and income growth. Over $1 billion in rural business development loans and grants are provided.
- Community Facilities Direct Loans: Community Facilities direct loans (that can be used to finance any essential community facility, including libraries, hospitals, health care centers, adult and child day care facilities, etc.) are increased by $200 million, from $2.8 billion to $3 billion.
- Broadband Pilot: As a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act’s infrastructure initiative, $600 million in budget authority was provided for a combination loan/grant broadband pilot program in fiscal year 2018. Without access to high-speed internet services, rural producers and businesses are crippled in their ability to compete, and their communities are being left further and further behind. Broadband access is critical to try to level the playing field. This funding will create – and maintain – good jobs in rural America. This bill provides an additional $425 million for that program.
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 President’s budget proposal that would have devastated participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- Child Nutrition Programs: Total funding for Child Nutrition Programs is $23.184 billion. Included in this funding is $30 million for school equipment grants and $28 million for Summer EBT.
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): The WIC programs plays an important role in ensuring healthy pregnancies and the healthy growth of children. The bill provides full funding for the program, which will serve over 6 million mothers and children each month. The funding level provides an increase of $5 million for grants to help remotely connect breastfeeding mothers with lactation consultants and registered dieticians.
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program: The bill provides $238 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which will provide more than 725,000 seniors with healthy and nutritious supplemental food. The President’s budget proposed to eliminated this program.
International Food Aid
The bill, again, rejects the President’s budget proposal to eliminate important international food aid programs. America has a long standing tradition of providing urgent food aid to those in need worldwide, which increases security at home. There are many humanitarian crises currently unfolding around the world and this important program will save lives.
- 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 2018 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 attending class. The President’s budget proposed to end this program.
Food and Drug Administration
The bill includes $2.959 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, which is $159 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level. Included in this funding are the following increases: $5 million to fully fund the Oncology Center of Excellence; $37.6 million to modernize the generic drug review process; $20 million for investment and innovation for rare diseases; $11.7 million to promote domestic manufacturing; $8.2 million for a new platform for drug development; $6 million for MedTech manufacturing; $7.2 million for FSMA cooperative agreements; $2.8 million for food import safety; $5 million to address food safety outbreaks; and $500,000 to test antibiotic resistance in imported seafood.
The FDA has a significant responsibility to consider the public health impact of opioid misuse, abuse, diversion and overdose death. The bill includes $59 million for FDA to continue its increased activities, begun in fiscal year 2018, in response to this crisis. This includes funding to enhance FDA’s presence at international mail facilities to work to curb the importation of illicit fentanyl, which is a major contributing factor to the opioid crisis; better identify and target firms and organizations importing illicit drugs, including fentanyl, into the U.S.; maintain increased staffing to inspect packages and the number of packages being inspected; maintain enhanced criminal investigation resources; and to maintain increased staff and equipment to efficiently screen imported products.
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