Appropriators reach deal with no cotton or dairy provisions or riders
Appropriators have reached a deal to fund the government through Sept. 30 without any provisions to help the dairy or cotton industries or any of the riders that some groups feared relating to various federal rules.
“While I am disappointed that the bipartisan appropriations agreement did not include additional support for both dairy and cotton farmers, I am encouraged that the bill rejects White House proposals to cut important clean water infrastructure programs that are critical to small towns and rural communities,” said Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
“We have the responsibility to address the concerns of all farmers who need a strong safety net and I will continue to take every opportunity to fight for Michigan farmers and families,” Stabenow said.
“As we begin work on the 2018 farm bill, I will continue to ensure that our farmers have effective risk management tools in times of low prices or weather disasters,” she said.
The National Cotton Council expressed disappointment that the bill did not direct the Agriculture Department to designate cottonseed as an oilseed, and therefore eligible for subsidies.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition praised the bill for several provisions.
“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,” NSAC said.
“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, the group said.
“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 protections for contract farmers (the ‘Farmer Fair Practices Rules’),” NSAC added. “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,” NSAC concluded.
The SoAR Foundation, a group concerned with agricultural research, praised the bill for a $25 million increase in agricultural research.
The budget for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative has now reached $375 million, with the last two fiscal budgets providing a 15 percent boost, the group said.
“As Congress continues to embrace the importance of agricultural research, everyone benefits,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. “With more science at their disposal, farmers can improve production and efficiency in the face of rising costs and threats like drought, avian flu, and citrus greening disease. Consumers then benefit from more stable food prices.”
“This budget increase also sets the table for 2018 farm bill negotiations, which are now underway,” Grumbly added.
“Not only should AFRI’s competitive research budget be established at a point higher than $700 million, but we also need to address how to reach this level of funding while solving the infrastructure troubles at most of our country’s research institutions,” Grumbly said.