Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Agriculture Committee Subcommittee Chairs Applaud Budget Reconciliation Package

Agriculture Committee Subcommittee Chairs Applaud Budget Reconciliation Package

The House Agriculture Committee released the text of the Agriculture and Nutrition Title of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Reconciliation.

The package would provide $16.112 billion in funding to multiple programs and missions, including a historic effort to aid Black farmers and other farmers of color, as well as investing in 1890 Land Grants and other minority-serving institutions and community-based organizations that serve these farmers and ranchers and their communities.

The package also contains funding broadening access to COVID-19 vaccines, allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to address supply chain issues facing the food and agriculture sector and continuing the 15% boost in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Following the release, the Chairs of the six House Agriculture Subcommittees praised the bill and noted the accomplishments that come along with the groundbreaking language:

“We’re targeting $3.6 billion to build a more resilient food system by focusing on protective equipment investments for farm and food workers, food purchases for hungry people, and supply chain improvements for food and agriculture. The bill also provides $100 million in timely overtime fee relief to small meat and poultry processors who are still grappling with COVID-19-related backlogs and directs $300 million to expand USDA’s surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in animals,” said Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Committee Chairman Jim Costa of California.

”Additionally, as we continue to combat food insecurity here in the U.S., the United Nations estimates a record 235 million people globally will need assistance in 2021, a nearly 40 percent increase from last year. The $800m in targeted support for the Food for Peace program included in this bill could not come at a more crucial time.”

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, added, “Farmers and producers can play a key role in addressing many of our current economic challenges, and this package is a step toward harnessing the power of American agriculture to rebuild our economy in the wake of COVID-19. As we work to strengthen the rural economy in a moment of hardship, I look forward to receiving feedback from crop and livestock producers about how these investments can protect family farms, expand economic opportunities, and support the next generation of farmers. I’m also glad to see that this bill includes funding to resolve long-standing issues related to land access, credit, and access to USDA programs – and I’m hopeful that USDA will ensure these provisions are targeted to the rural families and communities that need them most.”

“I am thrilled our package includes critical funding to support families as they continue to face economic and health hardships during this pandemic,” said Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Jahana Hayes. “The bill extends the much needed 15 percent increase in SNAP until September 30, provides an additional $37 million to low-income seniors through the Commodity Supplemental Assistance Program, and provides $1 billion for the Nutrition Assistance Program to assist Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands.”

“As SNAP rolls have grown from 36 million to nearly 43 million in less than one year, state partners administering SNAP continue to need assistance to ensure those who qualify for this most basic need are cared for in a timely manner. My provision to include $1.15 billion to help states until FY2023 will make sure state administrators and SNAP beneficiaries are assisted throughout this crisis and economic recovery.“

“I am a strong supporter of equitable access to fresh, healthy food in rural and urban areas. Online grocery service is an important part of the solution to getting groceries to low-income families. The $25 million for the SNAP online program will promote technological improvements for SNAP online purchasing and other SNAP technology-related modernizations, as well as fund additional technical assistance to retailers to educate them on new technological improvements.”

Congressman Antonio Delgado of New York, Chairman of the Commodities Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee, added, “I am proud of the provisions I fought hard to include in the COVID-19 relief package, which provide more than $1.5 billion to fund critical programs that help our farmers. The $500 million in Community Facility Program funds will provide flexible grants to rural hospitals and health providers to increase vaccine distribution and testing capacity, ramp up telehealth services, support staff, provide nutritional assistance to vulnerable individuals, and meet other needs. Additionally, this package provides critical debt relief and support for underserved farmers and producers. After countless meetings with rural health care providers, local governments, farmers, and families across my district -- I know this assistance will make a meaningful difference in the lives and livelihoods of many."

“In 1920, Black Americans made up 14 percent of U.S. farmers – today it’s less than two percent. Systemic racism and discriminatory lending practices have led to a nationwide decline in the number of farmers of color. That’s why I am proud of the provisions my colleagues and I worked hard to include in the COVID relief package. These critical policies will provide support to build up opportunities and tear down barriers for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color who face obstacles to accessing land, credit, and capital to own and operate their farm operations. Our farm communities have been hit hard by the global pandemic and this COVID package is an important next step in working to build our economy back better for every American,” said General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chair Cheri Bustos.

“Almost a year into this pandemic, specialty crop producers continue to be challenged by ongoing supply chain disruptions,” added Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Chair Stacey E. Plaskett. “The $3.6 billion provided in this legislation to the Secretary will help ensure that specialty crop supply chains can better manage the disruptive impacts of this historical event while ensuring the health and safety of each person within the supply chain, especially our essential farmworkers. As BHR Chair, I am also proud of the funding we are proposing for research, education, and extension efforts at our minority serving institutions, including scholarships, internships, and pathways to Federal employment. These investments will ensure that COVID-19 recovery efforts are equitable and can reach all rural communities while simultaneously expanding valuable opportunities for students at these targeted institutions.”

The text of the bill can be found here.