WASHINGTON — With this final FY 2017 spending bill, House and Senate appropriators have sent a clear message: our rural and agricultural communities need to be built up, not broken down. We commend appropriators for prioritizing investment in USDA programs that help American farmers and ranchers develop and expand new businesses, conserve natural resources on working lands, expand beginning farmers’ access to operating and ownership loans, and support on-farm research projects that help find solutions to producers’ most pressing issues.
The omnibus package increases funding for Value-Added Producer Grants, Conservation Technical Assistance, Farm Service Agency loans, and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. It also refrains from cutting farm bill funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program, USDA’s largest working lands conservation program.
We are also pleased that for the second year in a row congressional appropriators have rejected the inclusion of the “GIPSA rider,” a backdoor tactic that has been used for years to block USDA from finalizing a set of basic protects for contract farmers (the “Farmer Fair Practices Rules”). We are encouraged by this decision and call on USDA to finalize the rules without delay.
While we are dismayed that Congress has once again elected to cut mandatory farm bill funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, we are generally encouraged by the FY 2017 package. We hope that Congress – and the President – will continue to do what’s right for American family farmers in the upcoming FY 2018 budget bill.
—National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
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