WASHINGTON—Thursday, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) helped pass a comprehensive Agriculture and Rural Development funding bill out of the powerful House Appropriations Committee that would deliver more than $152 billion in agriculture and rural support.
"Democrats are building up our rural communities, and this package reflects the critical investments that rural America needs to recover from COVID-19 and build back stronger than ever," said Congresswoman Bustos, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "More than any other single issue, mayors across my district have called for increased investment in critical water and broadband infrastructure. From towns like Avon, Roseville and Seaton to communities in Albany, Woodhull and Carbon Cliff, this bill provides crucial resources to help our small towns meet growing infrastructure needs. I’m proud that this package supports our growers and producers in a struggling economy, delivers robust funding for broadband and delivers the tools that rural America needs to succeed."
Congresswoman Bustos successfully secured a number of provisions for Illinois and rural America including:
•Significant investments in water infrastructure to help small towns and rural communities.
•Provisions from Congresswoman Bustos’ America Grows Act that will support USDA research.
•A future plan to incentivize the next generation of digitally sophisticated agricultural extension programs, through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the USDA will develop a framework to encourage schools to develop more advanced agricultural programs, which would help the University of Illinois’ Extension program.
•Robust funding for broadband infrastructure, including $990 million for the USDA’s ReConnect program and more than $1 million for the Rural Broadband Loan and Grant Program.
•Mental health support for farmers and ranchers, through a USDA study on farmer and rancher mental and behavioral health support, in coordination with the Rural Health Liaison, a position established last year, thanks to Congresswoman Bustos’ efforts.
•Bolstering the use of biofuels to reduce emissions, by encouraging the USDA to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to update the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) system, which is used to estimate emissions for mobile sources of air pollutants, greenhouse gases and air toxins.
"It’s critical that Extension continues to develop innovative digital and statistical tools that increase productivity and environmental performance in the ag sector," said Tony Franklin, acting associate dean and director, University of Illinois Extension at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "We appreciate the support of Congresswoman Bustos and our federal partners to help Extension, farmers and industry sustainably feed the world."
"We are thrilled to see language calling for the long-overdue update to the MOVES model in this year’s agriculture appropriations report and are grateful for the efforts of Congresswoman Bustos to secure this provision," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. "Currently, the MOVES model uses flawed data that can stifle and unnecessarily penalize higher biofuel blends. It’s important that USDA and EPA share the most updated data and science, so that any updates to EPA’s MOVES model capture the full air quality benefits of cleaner biofuel blends. Biofuels are a cleaner burning, more affordable fuel designed to help combat pollution and reduce the harmful emissions in the air we breathe, and having a MOVES model that better reflects the real-world benefits of higher ethanol blends paves the way for greater access for American drivers."
The Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations Bill makes critical investments in rural infrastructure and farm programs, including:
•Rural Broadband and Water Infrastructure—More than $1 billion for the expansion of broadband service to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and health care services to rural America. This is an increase of $435 million from last year’s package and provides $1.45 billion for rural water and waste program loans.
•Rural Housing Loans and Rental Assistance – $24 billion for the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, which helps low- and middle-income families the opportunity to own safe housing. A total of $1.4 billion for rental assistance and rental vouchers for affordable rental housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities.
•Food and Nutrition Programs – $5.75 billion in funding for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which helps make sure low-income mothers and their children are able to access baby formula and fresh food. More than $25 billion in funding for child nutrition programs such as free and reduced-price lunch, and $68 billion in support for SNAP, which helps families put food on the table as millions of Americans face lost wages and record unemployment.
•Farm Programs –More than $1.8 billion for farm programs, an increase of more than $30 million.
•Agricultural Research – $3.3 billion, an increase of $90 million, for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and NIFA to support research to mitigate crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, increase production and combat antimicrobial resistance.
The funding package will now head to the House floor for final passage.
via Canton Daily Ledger – Canton, IL
July 10, 2020 at 03:46PM