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Year-ending spending bill funds key ag priorities

Omnibus appropriations bill includes increase for WHIP+, ag research and animal health priorities.

Congress approved the Fiscal Year 2021 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in action late Monday night in the omnibus package that included all 12 appropriation measures. The bill contains a total of $23.395 billion in total base discretionary funding for agriculture.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. says as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, his top priority is supporting producers and providing them with the necessary tools to overcome challenges from weather to low commodity prices to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Click for full bill summary.

“We worked hard to pass an agriculture funding bill that funds the farm safety net, provides access to capital and invests in our rural communities,” Hoeven says. “This funding, which is in addition to our work on disaster and COVID assistance, will provide farm country with important tools to help them succeed.” 

Specifically, the bill maintains support for crop insurance and other farm bill programs. It does provide an additional $1.5 billion for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, to ensure program funding is sufficient to meet demand from producers who were impacted by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019.

The bill provides $1.157 billion for the Farm Service Agency, an increase of $21.5 million above the FY20 enacted level. It prohibits the closure of FSA county offices and provides resources for IT improvements and personnel across county offices. The bill also increased funding to meet demand for farm direct, guaranteed and emergency loans, which provide farmers and ranchers with access to capital.

It also provides $4 million for the Hoeven Water Bank initiative, which provides compensation for farmers and landowners for flooded land through 10-year, voluntary conservation agreements.

Ag research funding

The final package provides strong support for agricultural research conducted by the Agriculture Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. As the USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for agricultural research within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative uses rigorous peer-reviewed process to recommend the best research for funding. The program is authorized at $700 million, but is currently funded at $425 million annually, leaving much-needed research unfunded.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit our farmers hard,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. “Investments in agricultural research produce scientific breakthroughs and innovations that ultimately benefit our farmers, families, and nation. Working in collaboration with our partners, we have achieved a cumulative $450,000 million increase for AFRI compared to FY2015 baseline ($325 million to $435 million over six years).”

According to USDA’s NIFA, AFRI investments have produced new diagnostic methods for animal diseases, genetic resources for row crops and livestock, and alternatives to antimicrobials used to prevent disease in livestock.

ARS research boosts include $1.5 million for sugarbeet research, $1 million for a new barley best initiative, $1 million for UAS in precision agriculture applications research and maintaining funding for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.

Animal health funding

The bill provides $1.064 billion for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an increase of more than $21 million above the FY20 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.

Sen. Pat Roberts bipartisan legislation, S. 2695, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Act of 2019 also was included in the package. NBAF was created as a national security laboratory asset that will serve as a biosafety level 4 animal health research and development facility for the defense against bio- and agro-terrorism threats. This bill directs NBAF to protect the food supply, agriculture, and public health of the United States by carrying out relevant objectives of the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 and the National Biodefense Strategy. The bill also outlines the national security mission of the facility and the duties of the agencies responsible for implementing that mission, including research, training, and coordination efforts related to animal health, veterinary countermeasure development, emerging foreign animal disease threats and threat detection.

The American Veterinary Medical Association welcomed many important provisions that support veterinary-related programs. This includes $8.5 million for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program; $3 million for the Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP); and $2.5 million for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank. It also includes a $3.2 million increase for the APHIS Center for Veterinary Biologics and a funding boost for the APHIS Animal Welfare Act enforcement and APHIS Horse Protection Act Enforcement.

TAGS: Policy
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