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The budget the House of Representatives passed in June reverses billions of dollars in cuts to rural programs proposed by the Trump administration and halts the relocation to Kansas City of two Washington-based USDA research agencies.
But the Senate has yet to consider any of the 10 budget bills passed by the House this year. The upper chamber will be in session only six weeks between now and the end of the fiscal year on September 30, when the current spending plan expires.
The House budget calls for $155.3 billion in funding for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), $3.2 billion more than the current USDA budget.
H.R. 3055 passed 227-194 in a partisan vote, with all Democrats but one (Representative Ben McAdams, D-Utah) voting in favor and all Republican representatives voting against the budget.
The chairman of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee said the committee deals with issues that “touch the lives of every citizen on a daily basis.”
“This is why we rejected the administration’s draconian cuts to programs that assist our rural communities and vulnerable populations, and allocated more than $5.1 billion above the budget request, totaling $24.310 billion,” said Representative Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Georgia).
The House budget includes many priorities sought by nutrition, farm and rural development advocates that were included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
“The House bill was praiseworthy for its inclusion of increases for sustainable agriculture research, food safety, local and regional food systems, training and outreach for beginning and socially disadvantaged, and other priority food and farm programs,” the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) stated.
The coalition’s funding priorities included an additional $5 million for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, as well as $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network above the levels included in the bill passed through the full Appropriations Committee.
H.R. 3055 includes $3.9 billion for rural development programs. Funding includes provisions for:
- Rural infrastructure – The legislation includes $1.45 billion for rural water and waste program loans, as well as more than $655 million in water and waste grants. The House budget includes an additional $6.9 billion in loan authority for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans.
- Rural broadband – The House budget expands rural broadband funding by $680 million.
- Rural housing–The bill includes $24 billion in loan authority for the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program and $1 billion in direct single family housing loans. Additionally, the House budget includes nearly $1.4 billion in rental assistance for low-income rural residents in need of affordable housing.
The House appropriations bill includes numerous specific provisions that oppose Trump administration changes to current USDA policies and procedures. Most notably, the House bill includes language that blocks USDA’s proposal to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to Kansas City away from the Washington, D. C., region. The House funding legislation also prevents USDA from finalizing self-inspection of swine slaughter by pork processors and preventing USDA from terminating Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center.
The bill rejects the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The House has currently passed 10 out of 12 budget bills, while the Senate has yet to pass any budget bills. The next step in the budget process is for the Senate to pass the House budget proposal or draft its own version of the budget plan.
The Senate is expected to make significant changes to the House budget, which would require a negotiation process between House and Senate appropriations leaders.
The budget process must be complete by September 30. If not, Congress can choose to extend the current budget or another government shutdown will be triggered.