WASHINGTON D.C. ― U.S. Sen. Tom Udall joined the Senate Appropriations Committee Friday in advancing an Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration funding bill that makes critical investments in agriculture and nutrition programs to support New Mexico families and rural communities.
The bill sets the Fiscal Year 2017 budgets for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
“Farming and ranching are part of our heritage and a key economic engine for New Mexico, and I was pleased to support this bill for our farmers and ranchers and rural communities. This bill provides important funds to strengthen agriculture in New Mexico as well as to address hunger, protect our clean water and quality of our soil, and stimulate the economy in rural communities through funds for housing and small business assistance,” said Udall, a member of the Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee. “I fought hard to ensure this bill contains funding and additional oversight for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Almost a third of children in our state can’t afford enough to eat at some point each year, and it’s critical to ensure those families have access to food assistance. I’m also very pleased that this bill contains several amendments that I fought for, including to continue a policy that effectively bans horse slaughter plants in New Mexico and across the country, and to ensure we fund a program for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers that is critical for New Mexico’s traditional communities and many others in the state.”
Overall, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies appropriations bill approved $21.25 billion in critical investments that directly impact public health and safety, including nutrition programs, housing and water programs, conservation projects, rural development and farm services, and animal welfare programs.
Udall successfully included provisions important to New Mexico that support economic development in rural communities, provide assistance to farmers and ranchers, and fund food assistance programs to improve the health of low-income children, mothers and the elderly. Udall pushed for measures to support Tribes and colonias, the development of water and wastewater infrastructure, food assistance programs, agriculture research programs. Udall’s three amendments in the final committee-passed bill prevent government funds from being used to inspect horse slaughter plants in the United States, provide $3 million for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veterans Farmers and Ranchers Program, and encourage USDA to work closely with states, including New Mexico, to assist with implementation and combat any falsification of data regarding eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The bill includes $546 million for loans and grants to assist rural communities in developing water and waste disposal infrastructure, including $66.5 million designated specifically for Native American communities and colonias, and $16.89 million for the continuation of the Circuit Rider Technical Assistance program. The bill also includes $313 million in funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which helps provide food assistance for low-income seniors, and $16.5 million for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which provides fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women Infants and Children (SNAP-WIC).
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich welcomed the legislation. “This funding is absolutely essential to New Mexico’s rural and tribal communities. Ranching and farming play a vital role in our state’s economy, and this bill will provide critical resources to produce the food that feeds our families,” Heinrich said. “And when many families are struggling financially, and children are coming to school hungry, we need to ensure food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are available to them. I am proud to support this bill to improve water infrastructure, invest in rural economic development, and help New Mexicans who are most in need. I commend Sen. Udall for his leadership.”
Highlights of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies funding bill include:
Food Assistance Programs
Child Nutrition Programs: $23.2 billion
Includes the School Lunch Program; School Breakfast Program; Child & Adult Care Food Program; Summer Food Service Program; Special Milk Program; State Administrative Expenses; Commodity Procurement and School Meal Equipment Grants, among other programs.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): $79.6 billion
SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program: $313 million
CSFP works to improve the health of low-income elderly persons at least 60 years of age by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA foods.
Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program: $16.5 million
This program provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income mothers and children benefiting not only WIC participants but local farmers as well.
Infrastructure and Rural Development Assistance
Rural Utilities Service water, wastewater and waste disposal loans and grants: $546 million
-Circuit Rider Technical Assistance Program for Rural Water Systems: $16.89 million
-USDA Rural Water & Waste Disposal Grants for Colonias and Native Americans: $66.5 million
Continuation of Grassroots Source Water Protection Program: $6.5 million to help prevent pollution of surface and groundwater used a primary source of drinking water in rural areas.
Grants and loans for Native American Tribes through the Community Facilities Program: $2.2 billion, including funding for water and waste disposal, Tribal college facilities and Tribal business development through the Strikeforce Initiative and Promise Zones.
Continuation of National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) programs important for research and education at land-grant universities:
Hatch Act: $243.7 million
Smith-Lever 3(b) and 3(c): $300 million
McIntire-Stennis: $33.9 million
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: $375 million
Farm and Ranch Research and Assistance
Alfalfa Seed and Forage Systems Research Program: $2.25 million to help increase yields, increase milk production and improve water conservation.
Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged & Veteran Farmers & Ranchers Program: $3 million through an amendment Udall authored in the committee markup.
National Veterinary Medical Services Act: $5 million to help provide loan repayments for veterinarians who relocate to high-need areas, typically rural communities.
Equine, Cervid, and Small Ruminant Health Program: $19.65 million
Horse Protection Act (HPA) Enforcement: $706,000
Animal Welfare Act (AWA) Enforcement: $28.746 million to ensure that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially or exhibited to the public.